One of my managers has given up

Dear Ken Keller,

For the last few weeks I have noticed that one of my long time managers has not quite been himself. If I didn’t know better I’d say he has given up. The guy I know used to arrive early, work hard, volunteer to help out and wouldn’t hesitate to stay late. Now he is a clock-watcher who keeps a low profile. I know I need to address this, but need some ideas. —Chuck G.

Dear Chuck,

Based on what you offered up, something is either off course in your manager’s personal or work life, or both. If something is going on in his personal life, I would recommend avoiding any discussion unless his job performance or the results he is responsible for achieving are impacted.

What you described are changes in behavior, but not performance or results. If his personal life is changing – provide leeway unless and until the job is impacted. When arriving on time turns to arriving late, that is your opportunity to have a discussion about his behavior because it impacts the company.

One thing that could have happened is that he feels his efforts, contributions, performance and behaviors are no longer being appreciated at his place of work. He might be thinking, “I do all this and no one notices or cares. Why should I work any harder or volunteer for anything. I’m giving this company the minimum from here on out.”

Another possibility is that he was insulted or denigrated by someone, perhaps even you, when he offered up a suggestion or recommendation to make a change that he thought would help the company. The person making such a statement might not have thought it was negative but it was heard as such. Again, the employee is thinking. “All these years and when I voice what I think is a good idea, I get cut down. Who needs this?”

He might have also found out, and this happens a lot more than anyone thinks, that someone else with less experience and less education was making more money, received more time off, or received undeserved recognition.

I give you a lot of credit for seeing this change in behavior; many owners are oblivious to noticing a significant reduction in the engagement level of any employee.

Your question was what to do about it. If I were you, I’d take this loyal and dedicated employee out to lunch, someplace quiet, and ask him directly about his change in behavior on the job.

However, don’t expect an answer during this lunch meeting. Ask your manager to think about things and to sit down with you at any point in the future to discuss what is on their mind.

That you noticed might be all that it may take for a turnaround. Or, he may choose to reach out to you and have a discussion about the cause of this drop in engagement. If your goal is to re0engage this long time employee, let the employee know you are watching, concerned and available to discuss his performance.


Dear Ken Keller,

Don’t use my real name in your column. My wife just joined me in the business. We never really talked about what she would be doing in the company once she started – only that I needed help. Now, she is bugging me all day long about what to do and how to do it. I am already swamped so having her here is a burden, not a help. Where do we get started? —Mr. X

Dear Mr. X,

You get started by having a meeting at home on the weekend. You each get out a piece of paper. You make a list of the specific things you need help with. She makes a list of the things that she believes she can help the company with. Compare the lists and create a new list of your wife’s responsibilities. The two of you must accept that she has total responsibility, authority and accountability as the sole owner of these functions and tasks. You cannot be second-guessing her once the transition is made. If she needs guidance and direction on any of her new assignments, you will need to take the time necessary to educate and guide her, just as you would anyone else in your company.