How fast the time goes! You hired a new employee who was passionate and ready to change your organizational world. You have both done all the right things, but eventually, almost every employee settles into what the Harvard Business Review calls “Middlescence,” or mid-career restlessness.
The heady excitement of those early days has fallen into a routine that may now seem unchallenging, confining, and even boring. Mid-career employees—typically between the ages of 35 and 54—work longer hours than either their younger or older counterparts. They have been part of your organization between 8 and 15 years. Yet only 43% of mid-career staff feel passionate about their jobs, only 33% feel energized at work, and more than 40% experience feelings of burnout. This is a time when your employee may ask “is this all there is?” when considering their daily activities. It is also a time when that valued staff member may begin to seek out other opportunities. These are prime, productive employees. How can you, as a manager, enhance the work lives of these valuable employees for both their benefit and that of your organization?
Identify those solid performers who may exhibit some frustration or boredom, then work with them to reignite the enthusiasm that you saw on their first day. What resources do they need? Are there institutional barriers to be overcome? Let’s get started!
- Meet individually with your potential candidates for a mid-career rejuvenation. Ask some in-depth questions about their job satisfaction, stresses, and aspirations. Listen closely; let them know that this is a process, not just a meeting.
- Assign some homework. Ask them to re-evaluate their career goals. Have their professional interests changed? What do they enjoy most about their current position? Then together, create the opportunity. Make a list of potential new projects or paths to new organizational roles.
- Any new role will require new learning and training. This may be best accomplished outside the organization through emerging leadership education, formal coursework, or through community leadership positions. Create networking and collaboration opportunities with other departments or work groups, within professional organizations, or within your community at large.
- Consider work/life balance. At this mid-career stage, employees may be pulled in multiple directions, including work performance, family responsibilities for children and possibly aging parents. Any of those stressors can affect performance. Does your organization have options? These may include help with child care or elder care, work from home options, or even a sabbatical.
As an organization leader, you can create opportunities to reinvigorate your mid-career employee career paths. Not every strategy will work for all employees or even for all organizations. You may not have the financial resources to offer, for example, sabbaticals to all 15-year employees. You can, however, take the time to listen and discover your staff members’ professional dreams. You made a big investment in your new employees, making possible their personal achievements as well as advancing organizational goals. Investing again in training and opportunity can turn a mid-career slump into long-term commitment and success.