How to manage distracted employees
On top of all the internal and external distractions, organizational structures have changed over the years, packing in more duties and responsibilities to every job description. That means your employees today have to spread their attention thin just to complete their expected workload. With all of these factors, it’s no wonder so many people feel distracted at work.
Fortunately, most distractions can be eliminated from the workplace, if you take the time to manage them. Here’s how.
Design or redesign a job from a distractibility point of view.
When a manager has a distracted employee, it’s natural to blame the person and say things like, “He’s not a team player,” “She’s not motivated,” or “He doesn’t work well here.” The manager may even reprimand the individual for poor performance. But before you go that route, take a good look at the job and environment to see if it’s making the employee distracted.
In other words, look at the job from a distractibility point of view. What are the job duties, both the ones explicitly stated in the job description and the ones that person just always seems to do? What’s the working environment like? What visual or auditory distraction triggers are present? How is the office set up? How are the lighting, the chair, and the desk layout? What other factors impact the employee’s efficiency, effectiveness, and performance?
Realize that if the work environment and the job are poorly designed, you will continue to bring in highly talented individuals who will not do well—not because of them, but because of the bad job design. Therefore, before you reprimand, analyze! What you find may surprise you.
Create a Distraction Elimination Plan for your distracted employees.
Think back to your elementary school days. You likely had a few kids in the class who always bothered others, threw spit balls, or just stared out the window for hours. What did the teacher do? She had a plan. If the kids were disruptive to the class, she’d move them up front near her. If they were window gazers, she’d orient their desk so they could no longer see the window. No matter what the disruptive behavior, she knew what to do because she had a plan in mind for it.
Good managers do the same. They sit down with the distracted employee and together create a Distraction Elimination Plan (DEP). By working together, they may decide on some physical changes in the office that can help, such as moving to a new cubicle or changing the lighting, or they may figure out some strategies the employee can use to maintain focus, such as not having an email program always open or disabling smart phone alerts.
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