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Dear Work Therapist - How do you get a co-worker to re-engage?

John Funk Community Leader Sep 21, 2021

How do you get a co-worker to re-engage with their work activities as they have become noticeably distance and absent at times?


chucktalk Atlassian Team Sep 21, 2021

My first thought here is asking them if they are okay. A little bit of empathy goes a long way to helping understand what may be occurring. Don't seek to solve, seek to understand.

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Dave Liao Community Leader Sep 21, 2021

100% - depending on your work relationship, your approach might change, but having underlying empathy is key.

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That's exactly what I asked them! Glad to know I started out on the right path. :-)

And I got some yeah doing okay kind of answers, but the behavior really didn't change. I am trying to walk the tight rope of not being too intrusive. 

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this

+1 for asking of they are ok or need support  


old school type - DONT:

ask them to be more onsite to control them … (that behaviour is reoccuring at the moment) 

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Dear @John M Funk

Totally agree with @chucktalk and @Dave Liao. The first step to re-engagement is understanding where the teammate is at and whether it makes sense for them to re-engage. You can find more information through direct conversation and asking how they're doing OR you can find more information from a distance by providing options for levels of engagement.

Depending on what you learn, there are different next steps to explore.

  • Space needed - if your teammate is not in a space to work at the same level of engagement they have in the past (e.g. because of health, personal commitments), then consider whether it's right for your teammate to return to their previous level of engagement.
  • Lack of connection - burnout is higher than it has been in recent years + companies have had to make a lot of changes due to unforeseen circumstances. In this case, it a refresh on team charters, roles definition, or even revised working agreements might be helpful. After all, when there's a big change, we sometimes forget that we should also change our ways of working. And if we can improve the connection between people and their role OR between their work outcomes and company strategy, then we might be able to give folks back their motivation to engage.
  • Fit in the role - as different needs arise in roles, so do different preferences arise in people. If you uncover that a teammate develops different interests, it might be time for them to explore another role, redefining their current role, or something else related to a career shift.

The fact that you're curious about how one might re-engage a teammate, suggests that you care about your teammate. Hopefully, your connection with them will provide needed support or at least a nudge towards a place of more clarity.

If you end up making progress, let us know what happens :)

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Hi, I can agree with everything mentioned above. Most important from my point of view is to have really strong relationship as @Dave Liao suggests.

What works for me is that I try to imagine myself in my colleague's situation. It is easier if I experienced similar situation, but the main message is to NOT TO UNDERESTIMATE the colleague's situation.

What is quite interesting, our company grew up on young people. But we're getting older so our teams are mixed up from younger and older people. There are quite huge differences in needs for these groups of people. It is quite clear but I didn't realize it until I got older :D

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John Funk Community Leader Sep 22, 2021

Yes, this teammate is younger than me and I have been here longer. We have a good relationship at work, but nothing much beyond surface level conversations. Going to go deeper.  :-)

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Laura Holton Community Leader Oct 04, 2021

I can't echo the words of @chucktalk@Dave Liao@Christine P_ Dela Rosa and @Martin Bayer _MoroSystems_ s_r_o__ enough! 

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@John M Funk - Thanks for raising and I think @nina_schmidt , @Martin Bayer _MoroSystems_ s_r_o__ , @Christine P_ Dela Rosa , @chucktalk have already raised valuable insights.

I can add from my personal experience - It takes a lot of courage, emotional bonding to build an effective team and there needs to be clarity. So, we should not ignore in case of such instances rather stretch our helping hands. 

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Hey @John M Funk,

I totally agree on the empathy suggestions above. To add a practical tip, it often helps to let people take ownership of something if you want them to be engaged. So rather than telling them what to do, make them responsible to solve a problem - something challenging enough to make it an effort, but within reach of their capabilities and area of interest. 

Like Christine P_ Dela Rosa likes this
John Funk Community Leader Oct 10, 2021

Just a quick update  - and thanks for all of the suggestions, many of which I implemented. 

My co-worker is back and engaged.  :-)   Thanks in part to encouragement and constantly making sure I was reaching out and providing "touches" at least once a day, but usually more. Along with making sure they realized how much we missed them. And then being really excited when they made in and engaged with the rest of us.  :-)

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Glad to hear it!

Like John Funk likes this

Communicate.  This pandemic has brought mental illness to the forefront.  People who pull away could have an issue.  Just reach out and ask how they are.  

Like John Funk likes this

It's fairly easy if you got something in common. You both got work in common, so you can start by sharing the latest gossips related to work ;) 


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