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Long-term Employees - 13 September 2012

If you ever need to raise money for charity, here’s a tip. Ask people on a Sunday.

In a study conducted a few years ago at Harvard University, researchers wanted to discover whether there were certain days of the week on which people felt the most generous. They sought donations from religious and non-religious folk on various days and found there was no difference whatsoever in the generosity of the two groups between Monday and Saturday.

But on Sundays, religious people donated a whopping 300 per cent more than they did the rest of the week. That’s because many of them had just been to church. With the holy messages fresh in their mind, they were more likely to hand over extra cash. The professors called it The Sunday Effect. It means believers are inclined to perform good deeds when they’re reminded of their faith

There are similarities in the workplace. When employees start working for you, the Sunday Effect is present – they’re excited to be in a new job and want to perform well. But after about six months, it wears off and the Monday Effect sets in as people stop being so enthusiastic. As the years progress, they move on to the Tuesday Effect, then the Wednesday Effect, making their way down the chain as cynicism and boredom take hold.

If you have long-term employees in your team, such as those on the verge of retirement, you might be dealing with people who are sitting stubbornly in the Saturday Effect, far removed from what initially inspired them. As a result, they’ve become disengaged, uncooperative, and possibly destructive, biding their time until they either find new employment or retire.

Your challenge is to get them to perform once again by finding a way to reignite their faith in their job. The Sunday Effect can help.

Evangelise: Remind them of the positive difference they can make via their work to other people’s lives, such as their teammates, their clients, and themselves. And make time for a liturgy, during which you acknowledge and celebrate their long years of service. Also try to discover their natural talents, and somehow incorporate these within their job.

Omniscience: Capture their knowledge, and make them feel useful and smart, by getting them to mentor new starters. Perhaps even consider ordainment by giving them new responsibilities that spice up their work. (Be wary that others don’t perceive this as a reward for poor behaviour.)

Disciples: People trust, and are generally influenced by, their colleagues more than their boss. So, see if you can get their friends on side as advocates who’ll help to reinvigorate the team. And never forget the power of fellowship. It can be maximised by creating small projects on which your employees can collaborate with people they like.

Contrition: Don’t shy away from having formal performance conversations, which managers often avoid when they’re intimidated by their employees’ longevity. During these meetings, incorporate atonement by asking open-ended questions that prompt them to admit their problem, its cause, and its impact. This process increases ownership.

Orthodoxy: Set clear guidelines, put in place the requisite boundaries, and articulate your expectations. If problems persist, resort to fasting, which is when you deny them certain benefits until they improve. Otherwise, it becomes contagious when their colleagues see them getting away with sub-par performance.

Research shows that even though employee engagement tends to decline from the sixth month of employment right up until the sixth year, curiously it begins to rise again once the seventh year arrives. That should give you some faith that, in the workplace at least, there’s always hope for a resurrection.

To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click here.


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