What to Do When a Good Employee Stops Trying to Grow

What to Do When a Good Employee Stops Trying to Grow

Employees at the start of their career are known to take extra efforts. They are learning the ropes of corporate world & at the same time trying to become competent in their roles. These employees continuously strive to go the extra mile & achieve goals. For themselves, for their teams & for their company. Intent is to fulfill obligations that are expected out of them.

But after a while, complacency starts creeping in. That is reflected in their actions and behavior. The same employees, get so comfortable doing the usual stuff over and over. They reach a point where they don’t seek to grow any further. By being an expert in their field, they seem to enjoy their command at their work. While the latter is not always bad, not trying to grow is definitely harmful. This prevents these individuals to look away from opportunities & takes away the same thing that brought them to their current pedestal – willingness to learn & grow.

While at first glance it may appear that these employees have finally reached the end of their learning curve. And probably that’s all they can achieve. But its important to realise that their mindset plays a critical role in their inability to grow further. For example, a person with a fixed mindset may believe that the current stage is their final upper limit and there’s no way forward. Hence, it is important for companies to encourage growth mindset in the workplace. With a growth mindset, employees understand there is a huge scope for improving their skills. With sufficient time and experience, they can reach heights they never thought they could possibly reach.

While ensuring a growth mindset across the workplace may take some time, there are a few steps managers can take to ensure their team members don’t stop trying to grow.

Mapping a career path:

It is difficult to look at the bigger picture from an employee’s point of view especially if they are too close to the picture. As they are so closely attached to their job, it can be difficult to identify what skills will be needed to further grow in their career. What is it that will take them one step higher than their existing level?

Being at a slightly higher level, their managers can provide a better perspective about what skills and expertise will be needed for them to advance further. At any given point, there is always a shortage of some skill or the other no matter how well staffed the organisation is. A list can be created that includes these skills and employees can be encouraged to learn some of these at the earliest. Training and guidance can be provided as and when needed. It is a great way for employees to diversify their skills and increase their value in the talent market.

If that learning is incentivised by a slight variation in career path, it can have enormous positive consequences.

Point to note:

This doesn’t have to be a spoon feeding approach. Managers can also ask these individuals to come up with a plan that they believe can help them in the future. Together they can work out a path that best helps them in their career as well as benefits the organization. As these employees move on to take greater roles, their juniors or subordinates can advance and take their place. So overall it works out best for everyone involved.

Incorporate stretch goals:

The way of setting goals in the workplace also matters to a great extent. Employees are used to setting goals that they can comfortably achieve. They do not have to step out of their comfort zone and are rarely challenged to do anything different or innovative. This can get dull after a while and slowly lead to dissatisfaction. The cause may not be apparent but the effect will start to show with respect to their performance and productivity.

To keep employees on their toes, encourage the concept of stretch goals in the organization. Make these goals enough challenging that while being ambitious they are not impossible to achieve. It forces employees to step out of their comfort zone and strive to achieve these targets. And the only way they can handle these challenges is by learning new skills.

There is a caveat though – if employees need any help in achieving these stretch goals, make sure it is readily available to them.

Don’t hesitate to look for other options:

And lastly, accept the fact that no matter what efforts you take, it may come to a point where the company and the individual have to eventually part ways amicably. This doesn’t mean handing out a pink slip and unceremoniously escorting them off the premises. It means that both the manager and that individual need to have a one-on-one discussion to understand what’s best for everyone involved. It is tough for employees to approach and initiate discussion on these sensitive issues so it may actually come as a relief to them. But it is best for either parties to look for options that best serve both their interests.


Every employee needs a mentor at some point or the other. They seek guidance at such times when they are stuck in their roles. Or they may simply stop trying to grow in the absence of one. The company’s work culture should make sure this is made possible so that the levels of employee engagement are not affected.