Can “Coasters” be Reengaged & Rehabilitated?

By Dan Simmons, CPCRecruiting Tips

What, if anything can be done with coasters? And I don’t mean the kind you place your drink on. What I want to discuss here has to do with long-standing employees who seem to have lost the drive they once had, and for some reason seem to be satisfied just “coasting” along.

With the economy in such an unpredictable state, it’s surprising anyone feels secure enough to simply coast along at work, just doing the bare minimum. But this is a problem in the workplace, no matter what is going on in the world. If you were the employer, how would you handle an employee like this? Any course of action would of course depend on the company and the particular employee and their position within the company, but there are some guidelines and steps that you may want to employ:

Reengagement is Key

Once you recognize the problem and decide that some sort of action is in order, what you do next depends a great deal on the employee and their position within the company. You need to give this careful consideration by asking the following questions:

  • How long has this person been employed with the company?
  • What level of success has this employee enjoyed in the past?
  • How well do you know this person, both personally and professionally?

No matter how you answer these questions, the situation still needs to be resolved, with the goal being to get the employee back to their “old self,” the person who was motivated to succeed, who was enthusiastic about the challenges ahead. The most effective way to achieve this, as we’ve said before in The Animal Science Monitor, is to try to get them to be “actively engaged” again. This won’t be easy since they’ve disengaged and lost their fire and your task is to try to reengage them so they can regain their passion.

That being said, the following are some strategies to help those who seem to be coasting revert back to the kind of employees they once were:

  • Reengage them through a mentoring relationship: You can set it up for them to be the mentor or have another employee mentor them. Either way, this is an effective way to reengage them.
  • Give the employee a challenge: You can assign them a special project or task added onto their normal responsibilities. This just might be the impetus that gets them fired up again.
  • Offer new training: They may have unintentionally fallen into a rut; maybe they feel technology is passing them by. Some additional training may help them regain their footing; give them fresh ideas and skills that they can welcome with enthusiasm.
  • Ask them if they need something to assist them in doing their job: Do not put them on the defensive because you have no idea what’s on their mind. Make this an open and engaging conversation. Prepare yourself to be surprised by what you hear, and be ready to help.

Communicate Openly About Expectations

If you’ve taken all these steps and nothing works, then you may want to have a heart-to-heart. This is only appropriate if you know this employee really well. If not, you need to have a straightforward and honest meeting-of-the-minds to take you where you want to go. The key to being effective at this is in how well you communicate and make clear your expectations. Without putting the employee on the defensive, probe to find out why this employee is coasting, and remind them of their past success and what you expect of them in the job.

If none of these efforts makes a bit of difference, you may want to transfer them to another department. It may be that working with new people will reenergize and refocus them. If this fails then it may be time to “de-hire” this employee. I think you know what this means. Dale Dauten, an employment guru that writes a syndicated column on all kinds of employment issues, coined this phrase. It sounds a lot less brutal that “firing” them, don’t you think? That reminds me, now that 2016 is well underway, you may want to take a hard look at the lower one-third of your team. Does anyone need a challenge? Are there people that need some more motivation? See what you find out, what you can do about it and if nothing works, maybe more employees should be de-hired!

Do what you can to make sure 2016 is a year you can be proud of. Whatever you can do to spur on this particular segment of your team, do it, so that you don’t have anyone else “coasting” along and not really working up to his or her potential. Companies in this market cannot afford to carry along any coasters. If you would like more information on this topic, or how you can ensure that all employees are working to their potential, just email me at I am happy help.