Archive for July, 2011

Keeping Your Team Happy Without Cash

The recession has brought many new or previously little-used terms into our everyday language – from “subprime mortgages,” “toxic assets,” and “quantitative easing” to “cash for clunkers” and, of course, “zero bonuses.”

It’s a clever phrase, because technically, a zero bonus isn’t a bonus at all. But the words give the impression that companies aren’t breaking past promises to pay bonuses (albeit bonuses dependent on company performance), while at the same time they give hope to workers that their bonuses will actually have some value in the future.

Image Cash is often no longer available as an incentive.

The practice of paying bonuses is not dead. In the financial sector, many banks have continued to pay bonuses – they use the somewhat circular argument that they need bonuses to retain good people because their competitors are paying bonuses. But in some companies and industries, bonuses are not an option.

So, if you’re a manager in this situation, what are your options for motivating people without cash bonuses?

In this article, we’ll look at some creative strategies for motivating and rewarding members of your team in a down economy.

Some jobs attract large bonuses. Others don’t. Significant bonuses are usually awarded when an individual’s exceptional actions or initiative have a direct impact on the organization’s revenue, which is why top salespeople will typically receive large bonuses.

By contrast, even senior managers in machine organizations may receive little in the way of bonuses – the success of the organization comes from people doing their everyday jobs smoothly and efficiently, and is not necessarily attributable to the exceptional initiative or performance of any one individual.

Non-Cash Financial Incentives

One of the most common non-bonus ways to reward and retain star employees is with stock or stock options. So, what’s the difference between them?

  • Shares/Stocks – Many companies offer workers a set number of shares as a reward for good performance, or as a sign-on bonus. Workers can do whatever they want with these stocks: sell them, or hold onto them and hope that the value will increase.
  • Stock Options – Stock or share options give workers the right to buy stock in the future at a predetermined price. For instance, a company may promise to sell its people shares at a price of $45 one year from now. If they work hard and the share price is $75 after a year, then those workers can buy the stocks at the lower price – and then immediately sell them for a big profit.

Now, there are advantages and disadvantages to offering shares and options.

One of the biggest advantages has to do with worker motivation. The Employee Ownership Foundation recently conducted its 18th annual Economic Performance Survey. They found that 88.2% of the companies surveyed stated that their employee ownership programs helped the company. And, in a study they conducted with Rutgers University, they found that employee ownership programs increased sales, on average, by 2.3% per year. These programs also helped to increase staff retention compared with companies that did not have such programs. When workers feel they have a stake in the company’s future, they’re usually willing to work harder and stay in their jobs. This can be a big benefit for organizations.

Also, stocks and stock options are a great way to save money, especially during an economic downturn. Offering shares to workers allows companies to reward their teams without the financial cost of bonuses. This type of reward also helps align personal goals with company goals. After all, people get a bigger reward if the company does better, so it only makes sense that they work harder.

One big disadvantage, though, is that stocks and stock options aren’t as attractive in a down economy, simply because people are so unsure of what the market is going to do. After all, what do workers do if the company offering a $45 stock option does poorly later in the year, so that when the team is able buy the shares, they’re only worth $25? In that case, no one wins.

Another disadvantage is that existing shareholders – the owners of the company – often profoundly dislike stock grants and stock options. After all, if managers create new shareholders, they’re diluting existing shareholdings – i.e. reducing the share of any profit that the existing shareholders will get.

Existing shareholders will only be happy for managers to award stock options if they, the existing shareholders, are likely to receive more as a result than they’d lose were it not done. There are only certain types of business and certain business situations in which this is likely to occur.

If you’d like a more in-depth look at performance management, and how to align team goals with corporate goals, see articles on Performance Management and KPIs and Understanding Strategic Compensation.

Non-Financial Bonuses

If you’re in a company that used to pay bonuses but doesn’t do so now, there are many other motivational rewards you can offer.

Start by finding out what your team members really value as individuals, because this might not be what you think. By taking the time to determine what’s really important to your people, you can offer rewards that really mean something to them.

Here are a few non-financial bonuses that companies can offer their people in this down economy:

  • Flexible scheduling – Many people, especially those with families, would really appreciate a shorter or more flexible workweek. So, consider offering people within your team the option of working four 10-hour days, or of cutting back on their hours entirely. This might be a welcome reward. Also, letting them leave early on certain days is another possibility.
  • Additional vacation time – Many companies offer their people increased vacation time, as well as extended time off (sabbaticals), instead of bonus checks/cheques. People can use this time to spend with family, take a long trip, or even go back to school.
  • Telecommuting options – If your company doesn’t need everyone in the office every day, why not allow trusted team members to work at home? Working from home is often more comfortable, and it can save workers money on gas and lunches out.
  • Additional training – Some people might really value improving their education or work skills. Offering them classes or extra training might be appreciated.
  • A relaxed environment – Some companies are starting to let their team members go without shoes. (No, we’re not kidding!) Letting workers walk around in their stocking feet (keeping their shoes at their desks in case clients come in) is not only relaxing, but it also helps them feel more “at home” with one another. You might think about relaxing the dress code as well.
  • Volunteer time – Many companies offer their team members one or more paid days off each month to volunteer at an organization that really means something to them. This is a great way to raise morale, and help your local community at the same time.

It’s important to make your team aware of the financial value of these benefits. For instance, if you offer your team an additional week of vacation, how much is this worth to each of them? Let them know the numbers so they can appreciate how much these benefits are “worth.”

When Your Team Wants Cash, But Can’t Have It

Inevitably, some team members will be really upset that they can’t have a “traditional” financial bonus, particularly if they’re depending on it financially. And while you must acknowledge their feelings, it’s important to be honest with them.

Make sure workers understand the company’s financial situation. The more your team knows about what’s going on, the more likely they’ll be to make allowances. So, communicate openly.

Work with your staff. If you really want to retain someone, then examine how you can give that person more money without a bonus. For example, could you provide a company phone or car, saving the person money?

If you have to, be totally – and brutally – honest. If people know that their bonuses will cost themselves (or one of their colleagues) their jobs, they might realize that the bonus is not that important after all.

Be aware that you risk losing genuine star performers to your competitors if you stop paying bonuses. You either need to accept this, or you may need to fund an exceptional bonus, recognizing all of the anger and dissatisfaction that this may cause to other people. This can be a painful dilemma for managers!

Key Points

When the economy is struggling, it’s even more important to retain your best workers. Make sure they’re happy – there are plenty of ways to keep them motivated without a bonus check/cheque.

Stocks or stock options are always a great idea if your company can offer them, but this alternative might be less appealing when the market is down. Other rewards – like flexible scheduling or additional vacation time – might motivate your team more, and they won’t cost your company much, particularly if business is slow.

Identifying sources of short-term stress

Log your stress events.

You’re tired. You’ve had a hard commute. The office receptionist was grumpy and curt when you arrived at work, and you’ve already dealt with two minor crises today. Then a member of your team spills his coffee over some important work.

Should you have snapped at him? Probably not, but it was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” at a time when you were really stressed.

So how can you reduce the levels of stress you experience, so that you can deal with problems in a calm, gracious way; and improve the quality of your life at the same time?

This is where Stress Diaries are useful for understanding the causes of short-term stress that you experience. They help you target and manage the most significant sources of stress in your life, and they help you think about how you handle stress, so that you can learn to deal with it better.

Introducing Stress Diaries

The idea behind Stress Diaries is that, on a regular basis, you record information about the stresses you are experiencing, so that you can identify repeating patterns and then manage them. This is important because these stresses often flit in and out of our minds without getting the attention and focus that they deserve.

As well as helping you capture and analyze the most common sources of stress in your life, Stress Diaries help you to understand:

  • The causes of stress in more detail.
  • How much stress you can tolerate before your performance starts to suffer.
  • How you react to stress, and whether your reactions are appropriate and useful.

Stress Diaries, therefore, give you the important information that you need to manage stress.

Using the Tool:

Stress Diaries are useful in that they gather information regularly and routinely, over a period of time. This helps you to separate the common, routine stresses from those that only occur occasionally. By targeting repeating or major sources of stress, you can hopefully significantly reduce overall stress levels with a minimum amount of effort.

Download free Stress Diary template and make regular entries in your Stress Diary, for example, every hour. (If you have any difficulty remembering to do this, set an alarm to remind you to make your next diary entry.) Also make an entry in your Stress Diary after each incident that is stressful enough for you to feel that it is significant.

Aim to keep the diary for several days or a week. Every time you make an entry, record the following information:

  • The date and time of the entry.
  • The most recent stressful event you have experienced since the last entry.
  • How happy you feel now, using a subjective assessment on a scale of -10 (the most unhappy you have ever been) to +10 (the happiest you have been). As well as this, write down the mood you are feeling now.
  • How effectively you are working now (this is a subjective assessment, on a scale of 0 to 10). A 0 here would show complete ineffectiveness, while a 10 would show the greatest effectiveness you have ever achieved.
  • The fundamental cause of the stress (being as honest and objective as possible).

You may also want to note:

  • How stressed you feel now, again on a subjective scale of 0 to 10. As before, 0 here would be the most relaxed you have ever been, while 10 would show the greatest stress you have ever experienced.
  • The symptom you felt (e.g. “butterflies in your stomach”, anger, headache, raised pulse rate, sweaty palms, etc.).
  • How well you handled the event: Did your reaction help solve the problem, or did it inflame it?

Analyzing the Diary

At the end of the period, analyze the diary in the following ways:

  • First, look at the different stresses you experienced during the time you kept your diary. List the types of stress that you experienced by frequency, with the most frequent stresses at the top of the list.

    Next, prepare a second list with the most unpleasant stresses at the top of the list and the least unpleasant at the bottom.

    Looking at your lists of stresses, those at the top of each list are the most important ones to deal with.

    Working through these, look at your assessments of their underlying causes, and your appraisal of how well you handled the stressful event. Do these show you areas where you handled stress poorly, and could improve your stress management skills? If so, list these.

  • Next, look through your diary at the situations that cause you stress. List these.
  • Finally, look at how you felt when you were under stress. Look at how it affected your happiness and your effectiveness, understand how you behaved, and think about how you felt.

Having analyzed your diary, you should fully understand what the most important and frequent sources of stress are in your life. You should also know the sort of situations that cause you stress so that you can prepare for them and manage them well.

As well as this, you should now understand how you react to stress, and the symptoms that you show when you are stressed. When you experience these symptoms in the future, this should be a trigger for you to use appropriate stress management techniques.

You will reap the real benefits of having a stress diary in the first few days or weeks. After this, the returns you’ll get for each additional day or week will diminish.

If, however, your lifestyle changes, or you begin to suffer from stress again in the future, then it’s worth using the diary approach again, as you’ll probably find that the stresses you face have changed. If this is the case, then keep a Stress Diary again – this will help you to develop the approach you need to deal with the new sources of stress.

Taking Action

There’s no point knowing these things unless you take action on them. Make a plan for dealing with the most important sources of stress that you identify, and put the first actions in this plan onto your To Do List or Action Program. And where you find that you need to improve your stress management skills, make sure these are on the plan too.

Also, don’t feel that you’re being self-indulgent by working on this plan as part of your job: If you’re happier, your team will be happier, people will be more motivated, and everyone will be more effective and more productive.


Stress Diaries help you to get a good understanding of the routine, short-term stresses that you experience in your life. They help you to identify the most important, and most frequent, stresses that you experience, so that you can concentrate your efforts on these. They also help you to identify areas where you need to improve your stress management skills, and help you to understand the levels of stress at which you are happiest, and most effective.

To keep a stress diary, make a regular diary entry with the headings above – it’s often best if you do this every hour. Also make entries after stressful events.

Analyze the diary to identify the most frequent and most serious stresses that you experience. Use it also to identify areas where you can improve your management of stress.

Soft skills enhance your technical skills.

In almost all jobs, your people skills – also known as “soft skills” – have as much of an impact on your success as your technical skills. That’s especially true when you’re in a management or leadership role.

The importance of having solid people skills transcends industry and profession; so, whether you lead people, aspire to lead people, or work within a team of professionals, you need to apply people skills to achieve your objectives.

So, how good are your people skills? Take this short quiz to assess your current skill levels. Once you’ve answered these questions, we can then point you toward specific tools and resources that you can use to develop and improve this important area of competency.

How Good Are Your People Skills?

Statement Not
at all
Rarely Some
Often Very
1 I ensure that I display the same standards of behavior that I expect from other people. 1 2 3 4 5
2 When providing feedback, I wait until I’ve observed enough incidents of a behavior to make a generalized statement that is accurate. 5 4 3 2 1
3 I go along with others’ decisions rather than inject my ideas into the mix. 5 4 3 2 1
4 I say “thank you” to the people I work with. 1 2 3 4 5
5 During times of conflict I think about how to preserve the relationship and still get my needs met. 1 2 3 4 5
6 While actively talking with someone, I have composed my answer before they have finished speaking. 5 4 3 2 1
7 I look out for myself at work and do what is necessary to get ahead. 5 4 3 2 1
8 I think about how others perceive a problem or issue. 1 2 3 4 5
9 I speak first, and think later. 5 4 3 2 1
10 I collaborate with others to solve problems using a variety of problem solving tools and techniques. 1 2 3 4 5
11 I cause more harm than good when trying to resolve a conflict. 5 4 3 2 1
12 When someone gives me feedback, I ask him or her to provide examples so that I can better understand the issue. 1 2 3 4 5
13 I pay attention to other people’s body language. 1 2 3 4 5
14 Where team agreement is necessary, I figure out the best solution to a problem and then explain why it’s the right decision. 5 4 3 2 1
15 I study my audiences’ needs, decide what I want to say and then figure out the best way to say it. 1 2 3 4 5
16 I make sure everyone knows about my contribution to a positive outcome. 5 4 3 2 1

Score Interpretation

Now add up the scores you’ve circled.

My score overall is: out of 80
Score Comment
16-36 Your technical skills may have taken precedence over your people skills in your career to date. You aren’t making the most of the relationships you have at work, and this may be limiting your career growth. It’s time to assess how you can work better with others in the workplace and develop a more collaborative, understanding, and open approach to getting your needs met – while still achieving team and organizational objectives.
37-58 You recognize that working well with others in the workplace is important; and you are trying to work collaboratively while still making sure your needs are met. There is room for improvement, however, as old habits may creep in during times of stress and pressure. Make a plan to work actively on your people skills so that they form the natural basis for how you approach workplace relationships.
59-80 Your people skills are good. You understand the give and take involved in working well with other people. You might not always approach situations perfectly, however you have a sufficiently good understanding to know when and where you need to take steps to rectify things. Keep working on your people skills, and set an example for the rest of your team. And take some time to work on the specific areas below where you lost points.

The quiz assesses your skills according to the four main themes below. Review your scores for each theme, and read more where you need to.

Interpersonal Communication Skills (Statements 6, 9, 13, 15)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Statement 6
Statement 9
Statement 13
Statement 15
Total Out of 20

Very many people spend more time working with other people than they do working on their own. This means that they need to communicate well with others, and this means that communication skills are some of the most important skills in the workplace.

Some of the key communication stumbling blocks to be aware of include:

  • Message barriers:These occur when the person communicating fails to communicate clearly.If you find that you often confuse people, then a good starting point for fixing this is to figure out what you want to say. Do you want to persuade? Are you trying to motivate? Are you simply informing? Or are you attempting to build a relationship? The purpose of your communication will largely determine what you say and how you say it, and   article on Communications Planning shows you how to prepare for a variety of communication exchanges.
  • Receiving barriers:These barriers occur on the receiver’s end of the communication, and they typically result from ineffective listening. We hear and understand faster than we speak, and this can lead to boredom and a wandering mind when on the listening end of communication.To combat this you should try to listen actively to what the speaker is saying. When you engage in active listening, you respond in a way that makes it clear that you understand the feelings and intent of the speaker. In article Active Listening, you’ll find some useful guidelines to follow when you are on the receiving end of communication.
  • Decoding barriers:Here the real message is not fully grasped or translated because of misperceptions, misinterpretations or missing information.The most common problem here is with mismatched non-verbal communication. A lot of non-verbal communication is unconscious – meaning that the sender isn’t aware of the messages he or she is sending, yet these messages can reveal a great deal about the way that someone is thinking.If you can learn to understand people’s non-verbal communication, you can improve your people skills significantly. Article on Body Language will show you how to understand other people’s non-verbal communication – and manage your own.

Managing Differences (Statements 3, 5, 8, 11)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Statement 3
Statement 5
Statement 8
Statement 11
Total Out of 20

People can seem to disagree about almost anything – what caused a problem, how to solve it, what values are right, what values are wrong, what goals should be pursued; the list goes on! On top of this, you have the personal, non-job-related differences between people that lead to obvious differences in outlook and approach.

Because of this, respecting and managing the differences between people can be one of the most important skills you can develop! Indeed, it can be a huge advantage if you can learn to celebrate and enjoy differences, and make them work to your advantage.

Key to this is recognizing that, in many cases, conflict is not “bad”. In fact, conflict often causes significant, positive change. It spawns creative and novel approaches to problem solving, and can actually improve organizational performance if managed properly. In article Resolving Team Conflict, we discuss how you can build stronger teams by facing and embracing personal differences. And then, with article Conflict Resolution tool, we outline how to use the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach for solving interpersonal issues. Both of these articles outline how you can emerge from conflict with strong and healthy relationships.

When resolving conflict, it helps a lot if you can understand other people’s needs and points of view – this can often help you find solutions that may otherwise not have occurred to you. And when you take the time to understand another person’s perspective, you are demonstrating your willingness to work together to find a solution. Articles on Empathy at Work and Perceptual Positions can help you develop this aspect of people skills.

Finally, you need to be appropriately assertive if you’re going to manage differences effectively. Aggression is clearly counter-productive if you’re trying to resolve conflict, but also, if you fail to recognize your own needs in a situation, you run the risk of agreeing to a solution that works against your own interests. Again, it’s important to remember that differences aren’t necessarily negative, so suppressing your thoughts and ideas just to come to an easy agreement isn’t efficient. You can read more about assertiveness in the article here. And Yes to the Person, No to the Task is a useful approach to use in everyday situations where you need to manage differences assertively and effectively.

Managing Agreement (Statements 2, 10, 12, 14)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Statement 2
Statement 10
Statement 12
Statement 14
Total Out of 20

While managing differences may be an obvious application of people skills, managing agreement may not seem to be. However, helping people come to agreement is important, and it needs a great deal of skill!

“Synergy” is one of the most important things that you’re looking for with teamwork. This is where the team’s output is better or greater than the sum of each individual’s input. To achieve synergy, you need to get people working together collaboratively.

If you’ve ever participated in a team decision-making process, you probably realize that reaching a decision by yourself can be much more straightforward! The problem with individual decision-making, though, is that you miss out on all of the insights that other people can give. With strong people skills, you don’t need to back away from collaborative situations: you can approach team meetings with a genuinely positive attitude!

When you’re engaging in group decision-making, make sure you avoid the common pitfalls. See article on Groupthink for more!

Part of this involves feeling comfortable with different kinds of questions, and with when to use them, and how. In article on Questioning Techniques, we look at open and closed questions, as well as other common types of question that you can use to keep conversation flowing and get the specific information you need.

As well as this, it’s useful to have a good selection of  Problem Solving Tools in your arsenal. When you are confident in your ability to find solutions you will be more likely to participate in these conversations and add value to your team. In  article Opening Closed Minds, we can see how to get your point across effectively, so that you can reach the agreement you are seeking. These types of tools will give you the confidence you need to confront differences, knowing that you can also manage the agreement side of the equation.

Another aspect of managing agreement relates to feedback. When given poorly, people reject feedback: it’s viewed as destructive criticism, and it can damage relationships. Delivered well, however, feedback can lead to an improved understanding of one another’s needs and perspectives, as well as improving performance and productivity. Look at this in detail in article, Giving and Receiving Feedback. Also, in article looking at the Johari Window we outline a great technique for increasing interpersonal understanding through self-disclosure.

The bottom line is that, to develop strong people skills, you need to be able to accept what others are saying and learn from this. Not only will this help you personally, it will help you relate openly and honestly with others.

Personal Integrity (Statements 1, 4, 7, 16)

For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.

Statement 1
Statement 4
Statement 7
Statement 16
Total Out of 20

Integrity is the cornerstone of people skills. Integrity means basic honesty and truthfulness when dealing with others. It also means working with people openly, and in such a way that people’s interests aren’t compromised for the sake of the team or the organization.

Basic courtesies like saying “thank you” often, and giving credit where it is due, are the types of people-oriented behaviors that can make all of the difference to other people. Whether you are in a leadership position or not, recognizing your teammates’ contributions and acknowledging their efforts will go a long way towards creating a positive, harmonious, and productive team climate.

Articles on Rewarding Your Team and  Leading by Example are great resources that help you learn how to behave with integrity on a daily basis.

Key Points

With well-developed people skills, you can communicate effectively on an interpersonal level; manage conflict positively; work productively with others to find solutions and reach agreement; and work with integrity and ethics to motivate and inspire others.

These are all skills that can be learned and developed. As such, even the most technically-oriented worker can begin to incorporate people skills in his or her work setting.

Best of all, people skills are not limited to the workplace. When worked on actively, they will enrich all aspects of your professional and personal life.

Restoring Commitment to Prevent Resignations

Be alert for signs of unhappiness.

Which members of your team would you miss most if they left tomorrow? And what makes them so valuable?

Chances are, they’ve been there long enough to know exactly how the organization works. Highly competent at what they do, efficient, organized and with excellent soft skills, they know who to talk to in other departments to solve major problems. As such, they’re the “go to people” whenever things get difficult.

When you’ve got these kind of people around, your team achieves more – not only through their direct contribution, but because they set the standard in attitude, behavior and results for everyone else.

As a manager, you really want to keep these valued players happy, so that your team continues to benefit from their exceptional performance.

But what if you notice signs that some of your leading people may feel that their futures lie elsewhere? If you get to the point where you receive their resignations, your team is likely to be in trouble. Just a few of the consequences are loss of knowledge, disruption, lower collective morale, and the time and effort wasted recruiting and training replacements. All in all, it might take months – or years – to rebuild your team.

Understanding how to handle this sort of situation, or even better, being able to avoid it happening in the first place, is critical to keeping valued team members happy, effective and engaged.

This article helps you to recognize and avoid the issues that might push a team member to leave. Use step-by-step approach to help avoid potential pitfalls, so that you can continue to get the best from your team’s star players.

Step 1: Identify the Warning Signs

The sooner that you detect that someone might be thinking of leaving, the better chance you have of changing their mind. This is why you should always be on the look-out for significant changes in the behavior of members of your team.

The kind of signs that you might need to be concerned about include:

  • Impatience, either with people or tasks.
  • Disengagement from the team, perhaps by being “absent” mentally, or using increased sick leave.
  • The venting of negative feelings in “water cooler conversations”.

Be aware that any change in behavior may be significant when it comes to making sure that valued team members are happy. In some cases, a seemingly positive change may be just as much of a warning sign as an obviously negative one. For example, a team member whose productivity suddenly increases may perhaps see this as a way of impressing a potential new boss in another department, or she may be anxious to leave with a clear desk and a clear conscience.

Similarly, a colleague who used to stay focused on his work, but who begins to chat at colleagues’ desks, may be avoiding doing work that he no longer enjoys.

There’s no need to become cynical about such changes, but do consider them in the context of that team-member’s performance and behavior. Then you can decide the best way to sustain that person’s contribution to the team.

Seasonal Factors
There are particular times in the calendar year when you need to be especially alert to changes in people’s attitudes. When people have longer periods away from their jobs, such as during summer or end of year vacations, they may be prompted to rethink their situation.

Such “moments of truth” can also occur at the signing-off of long projects, or even at the end of the financial year. Team members who’ve been in their role for some time may feel a responsibility, or even a moral obligation, to make a move only when one activity is finished and the next hasn’t yet started.

Step 2: Understand Possible Problems

Of course, it can often be difficult to link the symptoms of unhappiness with their underlying causes. For example, one team member may withdraw from office chit-chat because she feels overworked. Another with the same problem – feeling overworked – might take refuge in muttered discussions at the coffee machine.

However, there are several tools that can help you understand why someone might want to leave a job.

  • Herzberg’s Motivators and Hygiene Factors
    According to influential researcher, Frederick Herzberg, people become dissatisfied with their jobs when certain “hygiene factors” are not being fully provided.

    Salary is traditionally given as an example of a job hygiene factor. However, in an economic climate where people’s pay expectations have decreased, other hygiene factors – such as good relationships with supervisors – will often be more important.

    Herzberg’s model also states that, even when there are no hygiene factor problems causing a team member to be dissatisfied with their job, they won’t necessarily be satisfied with their work. To experience job satisfaction, “motivating factors” need to be in place. Typical motivators are the content of work itself, recognition of effort, and the availability of growth opportunities.

    Often the reasons for a valued team member “wanting out” involve a combination of inadequate hygiene factors and missing motivators, so make sure that you consider both when looking for early warning signs that someone might be considering leaving.

  • Expectancy Theory
    This states that people are motivated to work harder when they feel that the effort they put in will lead to a certain performance level, and that this performance level will, in turn, lead to a desirable outcome.

    So, when you’re considering someone who appears to be de-motivated, look for situations in which the link between effort and outcome has been broken. Was a project they were working on cancelled just before implementation, for example? Are results no better, despite the team member working hard to implement new initiatives? Or has the bonus pot been slashed?

Although this step involves “guessing” what the problem is, when it would clearly be more efficient to ask this straight out, it helps to spend a little time up front to consider what might be going on: this gives you the opportunity to prepare responses. Time is often of the essence in fending off a resignation – especially if the person involved is already interviewing elsewhere. You want to avoid having to say “I see, well, let me go away and think about how I can help with that, and we’ll talk again next week.”

Step 3: Talk to Your Team Member

Once you’ve thought about what the issues might be, it’s time to have a friendly chat with your team member to see if anything’s troubling him or her. Use informal, open questions, in a private, one-to-one session.

Sometimes all it takes is a question like “How’s it going?” or “How do you feel about project X?” to get the person to open up. Make sure that you listen carefully, and that you both have enough time for everything that needs to be said.

Step 4: Fixing the Issue

Work on a plan to improve the situation together.

Depending on the situation, you should be able to find some helpful suggestions in Mind Tools articles on Dealing with Poor Performance and Re-engaging Team Members.

Try to find a solution which plays to your valued team member’s particular strengths. This can often be more profitable for both the person and the organization than focusing on eradicating weaknesses in performance. Using the Reflected Best Self™ Exercise is a good way to help team members define exactly what their strengths are, helping them to go even further with their current job.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

In the long term, remember that there are a number of things you should be doing on an ongoing basis to keep people engaged, productive and happy. These include:

At the end of the day, you need to accept that there will be some factors that you just can’t influence. For example, a team member may wish to work in another city or country for personal reasons. Or someone may accept a career promotion, which means a move to a different part of the organization, because your department simply can’t offer a similar opportunity right now.

Understanding that these kinds of factor do exist, and that you can’t do anything about them, will help you manage these departures so that they minimize the impact on other key players. Explain the situation to your team, and use the methods outlined in this article to keep the rest of your valued team members on board.

Key Points

Keeping valued team members means not only maintaining the right work environment, but also being sensitive to signs of change. You can avoid resignations by paying attention to factors like team trust and job satisfaction. By appropriate monitoring of changes in employees’ behavior, and careful analysis of the possible causes, you can handle problems with less effort and more success.