Imagine yourself in this situation. Your boss gives you a project with a hard deadline. He tells you that the activity is important and it must be done but does not explain anything more than that. You are working day in and day out to complete the project but continue to have set-backs. You do not have enough funding to purchase essential tools and are realizing that you do not have enough time to complete the project. You feel that the project is beyond your ability and skill set. You are stressed and feel like a failure. You try bringing this up to your boss and your boss responds simply with, “just figure it out”. You leave his office more frustrated than when you arrived. This feeling slowly creeps into other areas of your work and before you know it you begin dreading going into work and contemplating finding a new job where you can feel confident and capable.
This situation is all too common in workplaces and is often a root cause for a decrease in employee morale and motivation. What is worse is that the disengagement could have been avoided had the boss taken the below actions.
1. Create meaningful work. The boss made a big mistake by not explaining why the project was important to the company and the role you play in the company’s result. When assigning a new project or responsibility, be sure to communicate the significance of their role to the outcome of the company’s goal. Giving meaning increases motivation as people feel that their work has value and that they are a part of the company’s success.
2. Offer training and coaching. Instead of telling the employee to “just figure it out,” use this as an opportunity to coach them on best practices. Take the time up front to train the individual and it can build capability which improves morale and engagement. If you let the employee struggle too much, they might start to question whether or not they are suitable for the role and start looking outside of your company for a better fit.
3. Provide the right resources. One of the biggest mistakes a boss can make is setting an employee up to fail by not providing the right resources. In the above example, the employee did not have time or budget to successfully complete the project. Be sure to examine the challenges an employee might face and figure out solutions to help them move past the obstacles or communicate up front the potential challenges that they might face. By providing the right resources, you are setting the employee up to succeed, which boosts their motivation as they feel they have all of the resources necessary to do the job well.
4. Listen. In the example above the employee tried presenting their challenges to their boss but was blown off. If employees feel that their challenges are not heard or not valid, their frustration will grow and morale will decrease. Listen without attempting to respond and put yourself in their shoes. Meet them where they are and show them that you are facing the challenge together. Your support can increase engagement as the employee feels they have a boss that cares about them.