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5 Ways to Save High Performers from the Sophomore Slump

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June 2014
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Sophomore Slump [sof-uh-mawr sluhmp]

noun

The rut an employee hits the second year of their career after being a top performer in Year One.

This happens all the time. New hires come in their first year and are competitive, energetic, and busting the walls down going 100 miles-per-hour. Then Year Two comes along, and it’s not new anymore.

It’s not as exciting. That energy slows down and that speed declines.

Signs of a slump

We see it in all parts of life, in college, some students enter their second year half-heartedly once the hype is gone, in a relationship, sometimes the second year seems to lose that initial spark after the honeymoon phase is over, and an employee can lose motivation in the second year on the job.

There are some signs that an employee is headed towards that “sophomore slump.”

Maybe they are not prioritizing work like they used to. For instance, are they more inclined to go to that happy hour before getting their work done? Are they no longer spending time on Sunday to get ready for Monday, or even starting to dread Monday mornings? Are they getting a little more agitated from a co-worker or manager?

5 ways to help employees get going again

Here are a few tips to help an employee snap out of the sophomore slump:

  1. Over-communicate – Managers have to reach out when an employee is in a rut and acknowledge the problem. It’s basic, but many managers fail to communicate and then are shocked to watch a former star producer with so much potential underperform. Acknowledge if there is a problem, and meet more frequently to discuss what isn’t working, but don’t stop there — put a plan in place on how to improve.
  2. Coach – A good manager holds their employees accountable; they don’t pick up the slack or cover for a poor performer. Good coaches don’t leave star players in the dust…they challenge, motivate, and build up their mental toughness. They set small, achievable goals to help build up that employee’s confidence and get them back on track.
  3. More responsibility – Sometimes, not always, employees hit the sophomore slump because they aren’t being challenged. This is when managers need to step in and give them a little more responsibility, and the opportunity to outperform not only themselves, but their peers.
  4. Be open to feedback and change — Although it’s a manager’s job to take initiative and address issues head on, managers should also be open when employees come to them with new ideas, new ways to deliver and report, and new ways to get the job done. Help the employee grow by being open to change.
  5. Offer knowledge – Whether it’s learning a skill that directly applies to the project they are currently working on, or trying new software that is growing within the industry, one of the best ways to keep employees motivated is to keep them intellectually stimulated. Encourage them to watch webinars, attend seminar and classes, etc.
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