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Bored employee? A kick in the pants

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Sonia, a manager at an insurance company, updates us about her efforts to motivate an employee who seems perpetually bored with his work.

I guess there are worse problems for a manager than facing a perpetually bored but competent employee. But James, one of my direct reports, is so clearly uninterested in his job that I can’t help but notice. And I bet his co-workers notice, too.

I’ve tried picking my battles with him. For example, I asked him before our weekly staff meetings to participate at least once. I told him, “Be prepared in the meeting to volunteer one success story from your week or share one observation relating to customer service.” During the past two meetings, he complied. Barely. He offered a trite comment about how “we need to keep listening” to customers. When I asked him to elaborate, he stammered a bit and then became silent.

In the other meeting, he recounted an incident when the underwriters made a mistake that irritated his customer. He seems to carry a grudge against our underwriters, so I think he enjoyed telling this story, even though it wasn’t the kind of “success” I requested. Another strategy I’m using is to challenge him to excel. I’ve proposed that he increase his productivity and pursue impressive goals. If he reaches those goals, I’ve told him he will earn incentives, such as paid time off, that I know he values highly.

Finally, I’m weighing whether to refer him to our Employee Assistance Program. I think the EAP professional might help him work through his boredom. But I’m hesitant to proceed because I wouldn’t want to stigmatize him or make him think he’s better off quitting. I’d hate to lose him.

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