Dealing With Someone Who Has Quit and Stayed: Ask Madeleine

Nine To Five Job Concept Dear Madeleine,

I’ve got a member of my team who has “retired in place.” No matter what I try, I can’t get him to engage. Any thoughts?


Dear Frustrated,

I think the only thing to do in this situation is to have a serious sit-down with your disengaged team member. First, put the facts as you see them on the table and let him know you’re looking for a substantial change in attitude and behavior. Be prepared with:

  • A clear vision of what it would look like if he were to “come out of retirement”—a picture of a job well done.
  • Concrete observations of how his disengagement is affecting both the team and the results the team is trying to achieve.
  • Clear requests for the changes you want to see, with a timeline. This is a critical piece—there has to be a deadline.
  • Unambiguous consequences—what will happen if you see no change?

Now I’ll add a second component.

All the latest research about motivation makes it clear that people can choose to be more engaged—it is an internal proposition. Blanchard’s research into Optimal Motivation focuses on three key psychological needs all people have—needs for Autonomy, Relatedness, and Competence.

Consider what you could do to encourage autonomy and perception of choice; deepen relatedness (quality of relationships, meaning and purpose); and increase competence (a sense of growing and learning) for this employee. Exploring these areas with him could get at some of the root causes of his disengagement.

This kind of conversation takes a certain amount of courage—but I guarantee it will bring about results of one kind or another. Your only alternative is to allow the situation to continue, which would eventually cause resentment among the rest of your team.

For detailed help on how to have Challenging Conversations, see our white paper Challenging Conversations–Strategies for Turning Conflict into Creativity. And let me know how things work out!

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

4 thoughts on “Dealing With Someone Who Has Quit and Stayed: Ask Madeleine

  1. Pingback: Advice on Dealing with a Disengaged Employee | Sherry Clayton Works

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