I supervise an employee who has been with the company for many years and does an adequate job. He’s no star, but he shows up every day and does the work. I usually expect more than that of employees, but I’m willing to accept this level of performance because he has been with us so long. The problem is his attitude. He has become a chronic complainer who never has anything good to say about the company, his co-workers, or his job. Even though everyone seems to accept that this is just how he is, I believe his negativity is bad for morale. I don’t want to fire him because he’s very close to retirement, but I’m not sure what else to do.
A.One possibility is that he is suffering from depression and needs medication and/or therapy. But I’m not a doctor and I assume your aren’t either, so unless he asks for help, that’s none of our business. However, his attitude may be the result of burnout, so look for ways to stimulate and energize him. Tell him you’ve noticed his malaise and remind him that he’s a valuable member of your team. Ask him what he thinks might make his job more interesting and satisfying. You may not be able to grant his every wish, but look for ways to meet the underlying needs he expresses. For instance, if he says he’d like a month’s vacation in Hawaii, the underlying need may simply be getting out of the office and away from the routine. Perhaps occasional site visits to other facilities or to customers would perk him up. If he says he’s sick of doing the same thing every day, look for ways to jazz up his job description, and give him some new assignments. Simply moving a desk or workstation can offer a refreshing change of scene that does wonders for an employee’s outlook. Explore the possibility of training or development classes. Consider asking him to mentor a newer employee. Helping someone else learn the ropes can be extremely rewarding and invigorating. Any or all of these things may boost his morale, and if that happens, you get a bonus! Your mediocre employee just may become one of those stars you mentioned.