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6 Tips for HR Pros to Recognize and Combat Workplace Doldrums

6 Tips for HR Pros to Recognize and Combat Workplace Doldrums

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson didn’t live and work in the daily grind HR professionals face today, but much of his perspective still rings true. However, many employees don’t feel happy with their jobs because they don’t feel as though they are making an impact or reaching their goals.

Feeling stuck in a career can hit to anyone at any point. Workplace doldrums lead to less productivity, boredom, and staff becoming disengaged. Having purpose is what motivates employee satisfaction and drives an effective workforce.  

Here are six tips from industry pros on how to encourage employees to rise out of workplace doldrums:  

Take Stock in Career Growth

The top three doldrums are first thing in the morning, after working with a difficult client, and after 2 years into a job.

An example of a time I witnessed the doldrums was with myself: I spent 10 years in corporate sales and business development, and right as I hit 10 years, I got restless. I took stock of what I was doing and what I wanted, and eventually chose to solve the problem by leaving my job.

I think you reach a point in your career where if you don’t feel particularly challenged anymore, you get the doldrums. When an employee isn’t able to grow and gain more responsibility, they become stagnant and get bored.

I recommend looking at the situation and honestly trying to discover the source that is making your employees bored or feel uncreative. Can you change it within your current situation? Can other bosses help? Really think about the cause of the doldrums, and you’ll be able to change it.

Jyssica Schwartz, Director of Sales at Authors Unite

Recommended Reading: More on employee retention and work-life balance.

Use an Open Mind to Problem Solve

I witnessed a mid-late career employee was in a slump and underachieving. I assigned him some new tasks and coached him through the process. We engineered a task set that was conducive to his personality and goals. The employee stayed until he retired at age 57.

Take the time to show the possibilities of what could be, versus what the tasks are. Think in more broad terms. Be positive. Be willing to assign new tasks. Realize your staff may be limiting their own thinking.

If your staff faces boredom and being stuck, encourage them to be assertive and self-promote. Don’t worry about what others may think. Take care of themself. Look outside the workplace for fun and meaningful activities. Also, get social support and seek positive peer support.

Bruce W. Cameron, M.S., LPC-S, LSOTP-S, CPC, Licensed Counselor, Executive Coach, and co-host of LA Talk Radio’s Concierge Coaches Show.


Find  Personal and Professional Balance

When an employee at our office showed signs of the doldrums, we put her in charge of training new employees. She was rejuvenated in her career because she wanted to put her best foot forward and really show others how to get the job done. We also provided small bonuses and quick thank-you notes (email and cards), which gave her a re-energized approach to work!

Sometimes the grind of getting things done can be monotonous, but that can be combated by a bit of a change of pace, like learning a part of someone else’s position (helps with cross training and awareness).

The same ‘ole routine can also lead to the doldrums. Change it up. Employees can take lunch at a different time or skip a break, but take a longer lunch. They can also change up their routine so that they start the day with the tasks they normally end with and vice versa.

Working in the same position for years can definitely lead to the doldrums. [Employees should] take initiative; change the day-to-day by giving MORE rather than succumbing to the doldrums and giving LESS!  

Work and life have to each provide value in your life. If you’re putting all of your eggs into the work basket, you put more pressure on work and then find it to be more unpleasant. Balance your life.

Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.


Recommended Reading: More on fun and productivity in the office.

Change Perspective and Learn Something New

Back in 2008, I managed a distribution center. Everyone was anxious, and concerned about how the economic crisis would affect our jobs. We had to do more with less. The staff was edgy and territorial, but we needed to continue to serve our customers while learning to conserve resources.

Our answer was cross-training every employee. Their main job remained the same. However, this way they could be loaned out to other departments whenever short-term demands increased.

We found overall job satisfaction increased. Employees felt valued, knowing that we trusted their capabilities. Their confidence increased when they became the trainer, and became more compassionate when it was their turn as the trainee.

They changed the scenery by going to a new department. Learned new procedures and discovered how their work affected their coworkers. This helped staff beyond training, and became an opportunity for collaboration.

This global perspective shift allowed employees to be generous with their coworkers. It created an atmosphere of cooperation. The answer to workplace doldrums? Change your perspective.

Encourage staff to change scenery or go take a walk. Pick a route they’ve never taken before – bonus points if there are trees involved.

Help them to get revived and find their inner dreamer. Foster an environment where learning is valued. Get curious, and discover something your employees have always wanted to know more about. Go out and make a difference for someone else.

Jane Fisher, Efficiency Coach and Consultant, Jane Fisher, LLC

Do More to Challenge Staff

Part of my responsibility is to ensure my marketing team is being as productive as possible. I have seen the workplace doldrums set in when my staff doesn’t have an effective work-life balance, a big life event happens, or when they have been with the company for more than three years.

I have an employee who was college graduate when we hired her as a part of the marketing team. She immediately had a hard time transitioning from college life to working full time. When I noticed her gloom starting to set in, I met with her individually to ensure that she was happy with the work she was doing.

I have worked with college graduates in the past, and I found the most success when I met with them on a regular basis for the first six months of them starting. I think the main way to combat workplace doldrums is to keep your employees challenged.

A challenged employee will be more satisfied with the work they are doing.

Eric Bowen, Digital Marketing Manager at Broadband Search.

Help staff beat workplace doldrums. Encourage them to take stock in their career growth, use an open mind to problem solve, find a work-life balance, change their perspective, and always confront workplace doldrums directly.

Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the Founder and CEO of Spark Hire, a video interviewing platform used by 6,000+ customers in over 100 countries.