It’s jokingly referred to as a mid-life crisis which is a misnomer really, as it may occur when individuals are in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. It’s typically a time of reflection on the meaning of one’s life, work and career. Sometimes it’s triggered by major life events such as personal illness; children leaving home or caring for aged relatives. It may manifest with the sickness or death of close friends; the death of parents or children; redundancy or promotions. It may be through experiencing constant organisational change or the mortgage being paid off. It can be prompted by sheer exhaustion, stressful jobs; 20, 30+ working years without adequate breaks; or shiftwork. It may occur through numerous careers involving study, retraining or physical relocations; or even boredom with the routine and predictability of one’s personal and working life.

‘Mid-life’ reflection results in major life changes, for some. This may involve leaving marriages or partnerships, jobs and cities; establishing new business ventures, going into a new career, starting studies or reducing to part-time work. Yet what of the individuals, whose reflection doesn’t result in major life changes? Those whom, upon reflection, know they have run out of enthusiasm or interest in their work; know that what they prized and fought hard for, has become tarnished and unsatisfying. And those who know they are nowhere near ‘retirement’ age and believe they have no options or energy, but to stay in their role?

The answer may, in part, lie in supporting such employees to regenerate within the organisation. There are a number of options that could, with the right timing, the right employee and adequate organisational resources, be regenerative and worthwhile for the employee and employer. It could be taking an employee out of their role to do something completely different i.e. work on a special project for a limited period of time. A project provides a change in scene and situation, responsibilities and colleagues; and may require the employee to use previously under-employed skills and abilities; or to develop new ones.

For other employees, changing roles for a period of months or a year in job rotation may provide a welcome relief from some aspects of long-held role. For example, employees who work with customers/clients in demanding front-line situations tire of defusing volatile situations; being ‘nice’ in the face of verbal or physical abuse, and ‘giving of themselves’ so completely. Time away from the demands of the front line, as it were, into a role that doesn’t have those elements, could be a welcome and necessary relief for a time.

Sabbaticals are also valuable. Although they are more common in some sectors and professions than others i.e. education and health, they could be introduced across all the sectors and in organisations with a moderate sized workforce. Some American organisations have schemes that run over six years. This means an employee receives 80% of their salary each year for five years. The 20% not paid out is kept by the organisation and used to fund the employee’s six year – a year off on full pay. There are variations on this theme – for three months off -or six or nine months off. The value of sabbaticals is that they allow employees to have a complete break from the workplace without loss of income or job.

Another option is career counselling. It may be that an employee’s work-weariness is because they are in a role unsuited to their skills and interests. It could be that it is at odds with their personal values and beliefs. If this is the case, then staying in the role or returning back to it after time away, will not be regenerative but damaging, both to the individual and the organisation. Career counselling enables individuals to explore their interests, passions, skill sets and abilities. They can explore opportunities to see where their skills can be transferred into different sectors and other workplaces.

One on one coaching is also an option. Coaching helps an individual to see where they are, where they want to be and the steps they’ll need to take, to get there.

For some employees, having an opportunity to reduce their working hours from full time to less than full time, i.e. working four days a week and not five, may restore their energy and interest levels.

If you have employees who are stale in their role; burnt out or finding ‘doing the doing’ becoming more and more difficult; or doing uncharacteristic things like persistent lateness, sloppy work, missing deadlines or increased sick leave, then it’s time to have a chat. It may be that events in their personal lives are impacting on their ability to work. It may be that that they are simply tired of what they are doing, feel they have no options and need to regenerate, in some way.

Either way, employees who are functioning at less than their very best, can’t be left to continue unchecked. They need support to regenerate in a way that suits them and their organisation. ©

February 2006�

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