Top 5 Signs Employees Are In Over Their Head / HR Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Here's how to know when your employees are over their heads

Starting and growing a company is an exciting venture. Part of the growth is partially due to the dedicated employees who have been there since the early stages. They work tireless hours, pitch in wherever is needed and have a passion for the direction the company is going. Their versatility is a great asset to the company.

As it grows, they are given more and more responsibility. Each time a new employee is hired, the incumbent employees help train and manage. Why? It is a natural and easy fit. They have the knowledge, the tenure and are a known and trusted resource. The employees who started by answering the phone and fielding customer questions are now the director of operations or human resources manager. This is a natural progression for many companies during their growth.

The challenge is that most of the incumbent employees’ skills are made up of what they had for the initial position and what they have learned while with the current company. Much of which is simply trial-and-error. Given this, at what point does it go from providing them opportunities for success, to setting them up for failure?

How do you know when you have put your employees in a position with responsibilities and expectations that are beyond their current abilities? 

We are seeing a lot of this right now especially given the high growth marketplace for many industries. As you are growing your company, here are some situations to look for that may be a sign that some of your team aren't in roles best suited for them.

1. Gatekeeper

There’s usually one person with the most information. This is the gatekeeper that everyone goes to. It makes sense. The individual was likely there at the early stages of the company and knows every step, twist, and turn. The problem at this point is the gatekeeper is now the bottleneck. Rather than getting what is in their head on paper, training or delegating, the individual remains the master brain bank. This much-needed information ends up being a big road block for other employees and the company. 

2. Deja vu

Ever been frustrated when the same issue continues to occur over and over? The expectation would be to figure out what is causing it and fix it. When employees are working in a role that is not a good fit for them this can be a challenge. They have been put in a position beyond what they have been trained for and are likely just barely trying to keep up. They haven’t had a chance to develop the knowledge and experience to assess issues and work together as a team to resolve and correct. 

3. Wheels spinning but not going anywhere

When an employee is working long hours, stop and take some time to figure out if it is because of the amount of work or the type of work. It takes more time to do a task when someone has never done it before. When an employee is in a role beyond their experience level, this becomes a daily struggle. They are spending much of their time trying to learn a new role or tasks. Rather than moving forward they can easily get stuck working hard and not getting very far.

4. Blame game

It's human nature to want to play the blame game when situations don’t go as planned. We often see this culturally embedded in an organization. It starts with the newly minted manager shifting blame to other employees, especially during their learning curve. Being uncomfortable with the increasing roles and responsibilities can easily cause employees to shift responsibility elsewhere. This responsibility shifting then gets perpetuated and becomes part of the team’s communication style and how problems are handled.

5. Past and present, no future

When an employee is working in a role beyond their skills or comfort level, they have a tough time looking to the future. They are focused on trying to keep up with expectations. The idea of something new or what is going to happen next can be scary and overwhelming. Rather than thinking of how to support the next stage of growth of the company, they spend much of their time putting out fires. 

As you come across these situations, take some time to assess the real cause and potential solutions. In some cases, it may just be a matter of some coaching, extra training or a few key tools to help them fit better into their role. We often see these key employees shifted to a role that better suits their knowledge, skill sets and what they enjoy doing.


Photo credit: Kite_rin/Shutterstock

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