Project managers and HR are the same in that we both look out for the mental and emotional health of our team. But unlike HR, we donâ²t have degrees in psychology or have access to clinical studies. So when an employee loses motivation and starts to drag his team down, we have to react pragmatically based on leadership experience, instinct, and our relationship with the affected employeeall with a ticking clock in the background.
We project managers have to focus on techniques that are direct, effective, and timely. For instance:
Donâ²t go Touchy-Feely
This isnâ²t a technique, but itâ²s an important enough warning to deserve mention.
I speak as both an employee and a manager when I say that touchy feely techniques like sharing sessions and trust exercises donâ²t worknot the places Iâ²ve been, anyway. These eye-rolling experiences only affect the already-motivated (if at all). Trying this on someone who doesnâ²t care is a waste of timetheirs, yours, and the clientâ²s.
No team can function without a little bit of internal griping, but too much can erode team morale. Bring their concerns out into the open at a team bull session, where they can be dealt with once and for alleven if itâ²s not to everyoneâ²s satisfaction. Itâ²ll be messy and painful, but itâ²s better than having ill will fester and grow over the course of a project.
Itâ²s Motivation that Matters
Apathy can be a result of any number of factors. The key is to find something to motivate your employee that actually works. This may or may not be directly related to the source of his frustration. Your objective isnâ²t to solve your employeeâ²s problemsitâ²s to find something thatâ²ll get him back in the mood to work. If heâ²s fed up with company management, for example, you canâ²t do much about it. But if you switch his tasks to something he finds interesting, it may pull him out of that funk and get him productive againat least until the issue with management can be resolved. You can even try toying around with incentives and fringe benefits.
Donâ²t Let Morale Slip in the First Place
Apathy doesnâ²t happen overnight. Itâ²s a slow, gradual process, where an employee starts out caring, but repeated disappointments strip away his enthusiasm and leave him emotionally dried out.
Prevention is the best cure. Latch on to his concerns early on and let him know that heâ²s not crazythat someone is listening to him. Even if thereâ²s nothing you can do about it, knowing that someone out there shares your concerns and is willing to discuss them can do wonders for a personâ²s state of mind.
Project managers are leaders, mentors, and coachesbut above all, weâ²re managers. We have a responsibility to deliver a project, and we need to find the fastest, most efficient way of getting our team motivated and back on track.