A new employee started at a high-level corporate organization. Talented, well-versed in the field, and eager to succeed, all of her previous experience implied that she would excel in her new role. She participated in mentoring opportunities. She completed work on high-profile projects successfully and worked exceptionally well in teams.
She stayed with the company, in the same role, over a few years. As time passed, her performance reviews wavered from Exceptional Performer to Average, at best. She disengaged from her team. She procrastinated on most of her work. The shining light of her high Potential seemed to dim over time. By the time she finally informed her boss that she was leaving the company, it was not a surprise.
So what happened?
Everyone is excited when first starting a job. The novelty of a new role with new responsibilities and people can excite anyone, for at least a short time. However, once the novelty fades, the truth of what a person needs in a job really comes out. And the question becomes whether that initial excitement can translate to genuine alignment between employee and job.
Over time, things that made this employee an attractive choice in the interview did not align with what the role truly required. She was a big picture thinker who loved exploring new ideas and possibilities, especially in groups, with less skill in managing and keeping track of small details. Her role occasionally called for the type of brainstorming that fueled her, but more often than not, required her to manage small details, on her own.
In this role, the employee was pushed into a box to think about ROI and efficiency. She was not granted the opportunity to be as creative as she could have been. With little to no reward for being self-expressing or innovative, she withered, so that when there was an opportunity to be creative, even on a small scale, she didn’t have the energy or motivation to share anymore. This type of boxed-in mentality will stifle a creative person, as the idea of staying in one role for more than two years will stifle anyone with a yearning for change and adventure.
While her passion and creativity made her an asset in certain, infrequent projects, the inability to tap into what made her come alive left her dissatisfied on a daily basis. This consistent job dissatisfaction led to disengagement, which led to low performance, and eventually, her resignation.
What can we learn from this?
What could have happened if this former employee’s manager had asked her what motivates her? What work could have been accomplished if her passion and values had been connected to her work? What positive impact might she had made if her lack-luster performance was a signal that her needs were not being acknowledged, rather than a poor mark on her performance review?
While employees can have high potential for success, if their values and passions are not acknowledged and checked-in on regularly, their motivation will waiver and their performance will decline. What drives us plays out in our actions. To ignore this is to leave your people high and dry and to continue to cost your company money in replacing them.
Assessments can make the difference
Why not assess job candidates before hiring them? Using assessments, talent managers can determine a prospect’s motivation to determine if there is a match that will be beneficial to the organization and fulfilling to the employee.
And for current employees the same or similar assessments can be effective in revealing motivational mismatches, so positions can be more tailored to the individual’s work style.