Forbes – Leadership: 14 Things To Do If It Looks Like An Employee Has Reached Their Limits

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC


As a leader, motivating your employees is critical for maintaining a successful business. But motivating employees who have already reached their limits in a particular position can prove to be complex. Without the opportunity for growth or other goals to pursue to help keep them engaged, team members can grow bored or even burn out.

To find out some approaches you can try, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council and YEC Next to share their best tips for helping employees who have hit their limits. Here’s what they advise:

Members share a few things you can do to help when you suspect an employee has reached their limits.

Photos courtesy of the individual members

1. Offer Continuing Education




If you suspect that an employee has reached their limits in a particular position but you want to keep them around, offer them advanced training or continuing education. Providing continued education to that employee will either allow them to further grow in that position or allow them to find a new position in your company that provides them with more opportunities for growth. Continuing education doesn’t have to be expensive either. There are many reasonably priced, quality online courses you could sign them up for or you can send them to some local workshops or conferences to boost their skills. – John TurnerSeedProd LLC

2. Rework Their Job Responsibilities 

If an employee has reached their limits in a particular position, consider reworking their job responsibilities. If they can’t go any higher up, reworking their job responsibilities to give them more to do and learning is a great way to keep them satisfied. Sit down with the employee and ask them about what they’d be interested in doing. Then it’s your turn to sit down and figure out if you can make it happen. Maybe there are other areas in the company that could use a little help, you could give some of those responsibilities to the employee in order to help them do more for the company. – Stephanie WellsFormidable Forms


3. Match Their Skills To Your Company’s Long-Term Goals

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

If I think someone on my team has reached their professional limit, I will review all of the work they’ve done up until that point, look at their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their long-term goals to see if there’s another position where I can move them. After I review their strengths, skills, and determine their long-term career goals and interests, then I will see if it’s feasible to give them more responsibilities in that area. If there’s no room for them to grow, I will let them know that so they can look to pursue other interests. – Kristin Kimberly MarquetFem Founder






4. Have Frequent One-On-One Meetings

I think it’s a good rule of thumb to have frequent one-on-ones with your direct reports regardless, but when you see an employee that has reached their limits, it’s time to increase the meeting quantity. One meeting is not going to solve this issue, so it’s important to keep asking questions and be 100% honest with your employee about where you can take their career. If it feels like the end of the road, it’s better to let that employee know that they’ve reached their limit so they can move on instead of being frustrated and unproductive. If there is something you can do for them, it’s best to let them know before they start looking for other jobs! – Jeff PittaMedicare Plan Finder

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

5. Delegate Some Of Their Lower-Level Tasks 

The “find them and let them” principle says: Find someone with a talent and let them invest in that specific talent. In any position, about 20% of an employee’s efforts are producing 80% of their unique value to the company. There are likely tasks that are ill-suited to this person at their level, but that are taking considerable time and energy. These tasks, more often than not, could be transferred to an entry-level employee that’s still getting their feet wet in your company. This will free up the employee’s resources in order to do more in the areas where they really shine. Often an employee will spend their first few years as a generalist, but their time becomes more valuable to the company as they specialize. Specialization will also improve job satisfaction and performance. – Reuben YonatanGetVoIP

6. Have Them Write A Manual

If an employee has maxed out their capacity at a particular position, and they’ve done it well, I tell them to write a manual so that the new hire for that position can be guided properly with minimal instruction from me. I use the manual as a gauge to see if the employee is ready for a leadership role. The way that instructions and processes are written out tells me how well the employee is able to direct others. The clarity, or lack thereof, signals to me the capability of this employee as an effective leader. If the manual making process was seamlessly executed, I would promote them to a team leader. If they have not fulfilled their role well or failed in the manual making task, I would pick out their strengths and move them horizontally to an applicable different department. – Ajmal SaleemSuprex Learning

7. Deconstruct The Limit

When I hear the word “limit,” I immediately start asking questions. What exactly is the limit? Who created the limit? What lies beyond the limit? If an employee reaches a type of ceiling, either self-imposed or company-imposed (e.g. pay grade limit), I take a few strategic steps. First, I view the limit as a possibility. It’s a great opportunity to hit the pause button and take stock of the situation. Second, I ask questions of both myself and the employee. Did I create this limit somehow? Did the employee? Did we together? Third, I ask how can we transform this limit into something creative and generative? If I created the limit, how can I help my employee overcome it? A pay raise? A new position? If the employee created a self-imposed limit, how can I help them transcend it? – Shu SaitoFact Retriever

8. Field Test Positions




At my company, we have a different approach to promotions or new positions to avoid this very conundrum: We let employees field test a position first so we can see if the position is necessary, the employee has the skills for the position, and the employee likes the position. Not everyone is cut out for management roles, and not everyone is happy in those roles, either. This approach helps us avoid the Peter Principle—that is, promoting people until they reach a role or level they don’t have a proficiency for. It also gives employees more control and direction in their careers at our company, so they can pursue work that truly interests them and helps create a role around that need. – Sean HarperKin Insurance




9. Challenge Them With New Projects

Hiring is a difficult thing and you want to limit turnover whenever possible. That said, if an employee has reached the limits of their effectiveness in a position, mix it up and challenge them with new opportunities. Have them help out a new department, take on a new task or head up a new initiative. You may find that they are challenged to grow and learn a new skill that may be beneficial to the company. This makes them more well rounded and an even greater asset. We had a copywriter who was doing a great job for us, but I could tell she had more potential and we moved her into a project management role. She ended up growing into one of the best PMs we’ve ever had and credits that we saw something in her that she didn’t even realize she loved until she did it. – Joel MathewFortress Consulting




10. Give Them A Chance To Lead 

Give them a chance to lead or be a part of cross-functional teams/task forces dedicated to addressing specific organizational issues. If they are subject matter experts, give them the freedom to coach new hires. Allow them to attend any training opportunities of interest. Always look for options that would make them feel appreciated, recognized and important. And of course, make sure to have a conversation to see what their goals are to see if they would like to expand on what they are currently doing and what might be exciting for them to pursue. – Jessica BakerAligned Signs

11. Share Your Perspective

As your company grows and evolves, the skills of your team members must grow and evolve also to support the continued growth. This includes you as a leader as well. Holding yourself to the same standard and leading by example is key. It’s not personal—it’s what’s best for the business. Putting this into perspective for your employees helps put everyone on the same page. Starting off the conversation this way helps create a safe environment that will help encourage healthy, honest dialogue that will help everyone discover what the root cause of the issues are and agreeable solutions that will be best for the company and the employee. – Karlo TanjuakioGoLeanSixSigma.com




12. Create A Process And Stick To It

Microsoft APAC

This is one of those pieces of advice I have to constantly remind myself of: Stick to the process. When you have a review process in place with monthly or quarterly check-ins, written feedback, self-assessment and goals, everything in employee management is easier. Then there are never any surprises. When you have an underperforming individual it becomes very apparent as you review their ability to hit goals in each conversation. Then typically what happens is that employee will bring up this fact. No one likes to underperform or not be set up for success and be reminded of it constantly. Then we can create a plan to remedy the situation, change roles or find them a new home. – Codie SanchezCresco Capital Partners

13. Provide An Opportunity To Scale

Provide an immediate opportunity to scale, but don’t require that the move is within that employee’s same role. I believe that the ones you want as lifetime partners (I don’t like the word employee) can reach their limits in any position, but there is always something new they can bring to the company. Case in point: I had a writer that went full SEO, and he’s in a much better position now. The same thing happened with a saleswoman: She had a passion for creating content and is now much happier committed to delivering content. To find out what will work, call for unlimited transparency of what they want and what they see is needed—and have your partners do the same about the overall company. The company will grow from the criticisms that are objectively dealt with, not emotionally. – Ron LiebackContentMender

14. Look For What’s Best For All

When an employee has reached their limits in a particular position, it is crucial to take into consideration what is best for the employee and the business. If there isn’t another position available, it would be wise to consider the possibility that the employee could be developed. With proper coaching and encouragement, you may discover your employee has hidden skills and talents that could be mastered and utilized. I would offer personal development training to challenge the employee to break through those limitations. If that approach wasn’t successful, I would connect them to other employers in my network that might have a more suitable position. – Turath D’hont, San Diego Moving Company

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Source: forbes.com

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