Preventing Slumps And Maintaining High Productivity

by Pam Lontos

How To Re-motivate a Burned-Out Employee:

Something awful can happen if you are out of touch with your fired-up, productive employees. They may burn out.

Your low-performance employees don’t put enough stress on themselves to burn out. In order to burn out, a person needs to have been on fire at one time. Low-performers may be de-motivated, lazy or bored, but they are not burned out. A new goal or push from management sometimes can quickly get them back on track and producing.

The burned-out employee is beyond that. She is like a house that has suffered an out-of-control fire and was burned to the ground. It is not just a matter of a simple touchup and new paint. Nothing but ashes remain if the danger is unnoticed until it is too late.

This can be devastating to your company. It is difficult enough to find good employees without losing one who was contributing to your success. You can’t afford to let this happen. If it does, you must do everything you can to save this valuable employee.

Notice Burn-Out Symptoms Before They Become Full-Blown

Catch symptoms before the person is at a complete burn-out stage. The clues are clearly visible in the energy level. The sales performance may still be good, but won’t have the same high-energy level — the sparkle in the eyes is missing. She just isn’t enjoying life or her work.

Often, managers tend to dismiss this because it hasn’t shown up dramatically in sales figures. Then, when the person’s sales are starting to slump, we think that the person is in a temporary sales slump. We ignore it or do some minimal motivation, waiting for the fire-and-high sales to return.

We do this because it has worked with some salespeople before. When it doesn’t work and the salesperson goes into a deeper slump from which they can’t crawl out, they may either leave or we may have to let them go. Your net profit will suffer either way.

What makes burnout different from a temporary slump?

        Burnout has three basic components:

        • Physical
        • Mental
        • Emotional

Exhaustion in one area leads to a slump, in all three to burnout A burned-out employee cannot be re-kindled overnight.

If a salesperson has physical exhaustion (working or playing too hard), extra rest will recharge her.

If a person has mental exhaustion (negative attitudes toward life, work and self-image), she needs help in changing her attitude from negative to positive in order to get back her energy.

If she suffers from emotional exhaustion (often the result of relationship problems), helping her solve the problem or just talking about it can get her back on the road to success.

Because burnout means physical, mental and emotional capacities are all depleted, managers must work on all three areas. We are thrilled when someone constantly overworks and produces. However, it won’t last forever if that person doesn’t re-charge.

People often overwork to avoid problems elsewhere. Their lives are out of balance. Managers must help them get more balance in their lives so it isn’t all work.

Brian Tracy, a leading speaker on human potential, asks in his seminars, “How would you spend your life if you knew you had only six months to live, and how is your current life consistent with that? If you are leaving out things that are important to you, add them into your life. You will be more enthused and sell more with less work.”

When we are out of balance, we have high stress and low performance. If we are in harmony in all parts of our life, we experience low stress and high performance.

Tracy points out, “We all need motivation. Motivation requires a motive. A vital function of management is to produce appropriate motivation to people to perform at their best. If a person is in a slump, it means they have no clear motivation for action. People are motivated for their reasons, not ours. A manager’s job is to help discover or rediscover what motivated the employee in the past and encourage them to believe they can achieve it again.”

Find out their dreams and help them achieve them.

Peggy Neer, a manager in South Bend, Ind., concurs. She says, “You need to know what motivates each person on the sales staff. It’s usually something different for each person. Maybe the salesperson needs a new and exciting challenge — something to get the energy flowing again.”

Peggy also recommends going out on sales calls with the salesperson. “Let them know you care about them not only professionally but also as a person. Reinforce the fact that you are behind them and supportive. Let them know you are willing to spend time with them daily to get them back on track.”

Zig Ziglar, sales trainer, author and motivational teacher told me:

The manager must understand that the seeds of greatness do exist in every human being, including that burned-out employee.

He should repeatedly understand and remind that employee that failure is an event, it is not a person; that yesterday really did end last night.

The manager should remind the employee that attitude is entirely a matter of choice, and he chooses his attitude when he chooses the input into his mind; and so he should choose daily to read and listen to positive materials and, to the full extent of his ability, associate with positive individuals.

When Lisa Hester in Juneau, Alaska sees her salespeople approaching burnout, she has them change their thinking. “Refocus your goals to a more positive association such as your dream house or a vacation, versus a dollar quota.”

A primary way to promote feelings of growth and positiveness is with sales and motivational programs provided by management. I constantly recommend tapes and books to salespeople who get in a slump and need positive reinforcement over and over to counteract the daily rejection and hard work that lead high-achievers toward burnout

Burnout is a tragedy because it ruins your top performers. Highly motivated people don’t work hard just because of money. They identify with their work and want recognition and appreciation.

Managers who want to keep their top salespeople must constantly praise, notice and encourage them. Don’t give all the attention to the low-achievers, thinking that the high-achievers are a gravy train who will last forever.

Burnout Symptoms To Look For

People are not machines. Stress wears them out by lowering the production of the biochemicals norepinephrine and endorphins, which activate the reward center of the brain. When the tissues producing these chemicals are fatigued, people become depressed and unproductive.


Watch for overwork

Tell people when they need to slow down, take a vacation or just a long weekend.

Exercise helps restore positive endorphins to the body often, a salesperson in a slump becomes inactive, furthering the depression.

Encourage this person to get into an exercise program This is a different activity from their work. Exercise releases endorphins and lifts their spirits.

Let the salesperson talk out their frustrations, anger and problems with you Holding in these emotions leads them to fatigue, depression and lost sales.

Help salespeople realize that this too shall pass They must not get into a mode of thinking that they will never sell again. They must realize, with a little effort on their part and support from management, the slump will disappear and they can be back to bringing in those large orders.

Encourage them to temporarily lower the demands on themselves Slow down, recharge Relaxation exercises, deep breathing, meditation or taking a quiet walk to relieve stress can get them back to normal.

A house that is burning can be saved if caught early. Burnout is less likely to happen or be less devastating if we are aware of its approach, watch for signs in it’s early stages and step in to support and educate the employee to change their ways, before it’s too late.


Copyright © 1997 by Pam Lontos. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Pam Lontos is president of PR/PR, a public relations firm based in Orlando, FL. She is the co-author of I See Your Name Everywhere and is a former Vice President of Sales for Disney’s Shamrock Broadcasting in charge of 8 radio and 2 TV stations. PR/PR has placed clients in USA Today, Entrepreneur, Time, CNN, Reader’s Digest, and Cosmopolitan. Clients include Brian Tracy, LeAnn Thieman (author of Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, Second Dose), and Sy Sperling (founder of Hair Club for Men). They also work with professionals who are just launching their company.

You can contact Pam at:

Pam Lontos, President
775 S. Kirkman Rd., Ste. 104
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 299-6128
Fax (407) 299-2166
[email protected]