How to Manage Your Disengaged Employee on a High-​Performing Team

BY Austin Richards
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Employers across the U.S. might be noticing a slowdown in resignations in 2023. Before you breathe a sigh of relief, you should know that disengaged employees continue to drag down productivity. You may have a worker who has embraced the “bare minimum Mondays” philosophy. If so, you need to find ways to help them engage and contribute to your high-​performing team.

Your Disengaged Employee and Your High- Performing Team

Last year, managers identified the trend of quiet quitting as a problem they needed to address. Employees at all organizational levels decided there was no need to immerse themselves too deeply in the world of work. Other aspects of life, such as family time or mental health, needed their attention. 

This year, corporate leaders are encountering a new trend: bare minimum Mondays. As Bill Murphy describes this well-​known phenomenon, employees with a traditional work schedule begin to worry or feel stress creep into their consciousness late Sunday afternoon or evening. They might dread having to carry out the task that always awaits on Monday mornings, one that they have decided is supremely boring. Whatever the source of the problem, Robin Madell reports the following for U.S. News & World Report. “The idea of Bare Minimum Mondays is to start off the workweek slowly by prioritizing self-​care over work duties on Monday, putting in only a minimal effort toward your job on that day each week.”

Much of the mindset surrounding quiet quitting and “bare minimum Mondays” has its roots in employee mental health and the new ground rules Gen Z employees want to set in the workplace. And while managers must support the mental health concerns for all employees, they also need to maintain the momentum of their high-​performing team.

The Importance of Job Fit

Not every employee will love every aspect of their work. If you have an employee whose basic interests and talents are not well matched with the specific tasks required by their position, you may see that they don’t perform at the same level as their peers. They may also visibly show less interest in their work, their team members and the organization. One way to gain more insight into these situations is to ask employees to take a comprehensive psychometric assessment. The results will show you the type of tasks that will best suit them. To increase engagement, meet with the employee to discuss the results and ask for their input. If they ask to change roles or assignments, do your best to accommodate them. You might not be able to completely adjust their job, but you can give them special assignments and commit to making bigger changes for the long term. And you'll ensure they become a more productive member of your high-​performing team.

Team Commitment

Leigh Thompson, a management professor at the Kellogg School at Northwestern, has another suggestion for managers who must deal with specific employees who may not be contributing enough to your high-​performing team. Thompson encourages managers to talk with the members of their high performing team to create a “team charter.” This short document should outline what the team is trying to accomplish. The document also explains which people have specific responsibilities and the “ground rules everyone must follow.” Following everyone’s buy-​in to the charter, managers can enforce accountability by asking every team member to update the group on their individual progress during regular meetings. In this environment, the subtle peer pressure may be enough to encourage your reluctant team member to increase their work effort.

Adjusting to the New Normal

The members of your high performing team have been required to make significant adjustments in the past few years. When the COVID-​19 pandemic first began, many employees rallied. They worked hard to ensure the success of their companies during a period of great stress and uncertainty. As the pandemic continued, they learned how to work from home or on a hybrid schedule. 

Now, managers are asking them to return to “normal.” That goal may be unrealistic as we have all learned much about ourselves. We realize the importance of finding a healthy balance between work and personal lives. Wise managers will engage individually with employees and with teams to jointly establish roles to minimize the tendency to “quiet quit” and optimize their high performing team.

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