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Every team will have someone who struggles at some point. However, as a manager of a busy law firm, it can be difficult to identify these employees. Many will try and hide signs that they’re having difficulties, while others may be wary of asking for help.
So, how do you identify those who are floundering and get them back on track?
Spotting the problem
Employees who are struggling for various reasons will usually show a decline in productivity and their results will suffer. One way to spot the problem is through productivity-tracking apps. DPS Spitfire, for instance, is a cloud-based practice management software that offers key performance indicators for an individual. If there has been a decline in an employee’s Spitfire performance indicators over time, it’s a good sign that something is wrong.
Observation is also a good way to find out whether an employee is struggling. As Vanessa Nornberg of Metal Mafia says: “The best way to know if a team member needs help is by reading the small signs that happen long before a conversation about the struggle will.” These signs can be a myriad of different things. The employee could be avoiding the problematic task by often leaving their desk, they could be less forthcoming about sharing progress with team members or managers, or they may look generally stressed.
But the best way to identify the problem is to have the employee tell you. This can be tricky – most people struggle to ask for help, especially in work environments. As a manager, you can make this easier by scheduling regular and relaxed catch-ups. In fact, this is exactly what employees want: according to Officevibe’s “State of Employee Engagement” report, 35% of respondents wished their managers would communicate more frequently with them. Regular catch-ups will give your team members an opportunity to unburden what’s on their mind, without feeling like they’ve specifically asked for help.
Getting an employee back on track
How you get an employee back on track depends on the kind of manager you choose to be. Some managers prefer to emphasise a formal relationship with their staff and keep a distance from their employees’ actual problems, but help them improve their performance. Methods could include performance updates, regular meetings to check progress, and clear feedback. While this approach will benefit business in the short-term, an employee’s long-term job satisfaction risks being damaged as they may not feel supported overall.
Other managers get more involved. These managers know that pushing an employee too hard when they’re struggling may not be good for them. Instead, they focus on being understanding and providing as much support as possible, concentrating on long-term healing rather than immediate or short-term fixes. This can really impact positively on employee loyalty.
However, a manager’s approach is on a sliding scale and certainly isn’t black and white. It should also be adapted to the employee. Some don’t want to share details of their personal life but would appreciate the support in keeping things on track at work. Others will need the overall support. If a manager doesn’t feel able to give this, involving another member of the team could be a good solution.
Tips to help a struggling employee
Here are some general tips for helping a struggling team member:
- Create a strategy with them to get their work back on track. This involves identifying the problem and tackling it as best you can. If the problem is with the work environment, make sure you take steps to correct the root cause.
- Keep an open communication channel. Make it clear that your door is always open and that they should come to you when they are having problems. Set up regular meetings to check how they are doing.
- Share your own struggles. Employees who are struggling often feel isolated and hearing your experiences with rough patches will help them feel better.