When a good employee starts performing poorly, it may be something outside the workplace that is causing his performance to suffer. Is his marriage in trouble? Does he have crushing debt? Did a parent recently die? You will learn this only if you talk directly to the employee. If you are respected and trusted, he should have no trouble confiding in you.
An excellent guide to diagnose the behavior of the employee is Maslow’s Ladder. Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who studied successful people, unlike some other famous psychologists who studied less successful or mentally ill people. Maslow believed that people are basically good and that their actions could be explained by the satisfaction of a hierarchy of needs, which encompasses five levels. As one level of need is satisfied, then satisfying the next need level becomes the focus of the individual. This is called Maslow’s Ladder and is condensed below.
Physiological Needs – Food, water, sleep, air
Safety Needs – A home, family, physical security
Love Needs – Belonging to a group, being accepted by others
Esteem Needs – Feeling good about a level of competence, recognition for excellence
Self Actualization – Becoming all that one is capable of becoming, maximizing potential
Without physiological needs being met, one can not move on to safety needs. One can not move on to love needs until there is a sense of security exemplified by a safe place to live and a family in some form. And so on.
If a good employee starts to perform poorly, examine why. He may have been at the esteem needs level and something has happened to move him down to the love needs or even the safety needs level.
Do not make the mistake of assuming it is not your problem. It is your problem because the quality of work expected has diminished. That happens to all of us at one time or another and it helps to have a boss who will offer good advice or who will just listen. If you can, help alleviate the problem. However, there is no magical solution for every problem when this happens; you must balance the needs of keeping a normally good employee versus the needs of the organization.
Drawing on his experiences in the U. S. Marines, in the corporate world, as a coach, and as a small business owner, Greg Ballard has published his book Small Unit Leadership, a concise, yet definitive guide for new, junior, and middle level leaders. His accumulated knowledge and insights greatly benefit not only individuals in positions of responsibility, but also those companies or organizations that have multiple levels of leadership. His website is http://www.smallunitleadership.com