ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

Employee Flameout

Have you ever noticed a previously enthusiastic employee when he or she loses their enthusiasm? The CSR who used to come in early to catch up her work, now drags in at the stroke of nine. The salesman who never seemed to stop in his quest for new sales and renewals now finds that socializing after hours takes precedence over customer issues and that he or she "deserves" any time off and perks that they can attain. The manager who is always looking for ways to improve the operation now spends his time maintaining results instead of creating enthusiasm and improvement.

The condition is called employee flame-out. It can occur at any level in an organization. Unless avoided or cured, employee flame-out is the path from enthusiastic success to mediocrity.

What causes employee flame-out? At any point in time that an employee feels that he (or she) knows enough about the job and does not need to pursue further career growth a flame-out condition will eventually occur. They will begin coasting in their jobs, expecting exceptional treatment for historical efforts (books of business in the case of producers) then for current efforts and continued potential. Administrative and service employee's who suffer flame-out begin complaining that they are not treated like they used to be and that no one appreciates them anymore. This is usually correct because enthusiastic and creative employees are typically more interesting and successful than their mundane counterparts. In some cases flamed-out employees are satisfied to collect a pay check and wait out retirement.

An interesting phenomenon exists in producers who suffer flame-out. While they were successfully producing and constantly busy searching for new ways to sell insurance and improve themselves, they were successful, fun to be with, enthusiastic and had a great deal of self confidence. When a producer flames out the self confidence is replaced with an inflated ego. He considers himself the expert in his field (whether or not anyone else does) and feels less appreciated for his efforts (probably because he is exerting less effort at the time). The flamed-out producer is more likely to look for more compensation, additional administrative support, bigger offices, and more perks. Unfortunately, the more of these benefits he achieves, the less successful he becomes. However, the flamed-out producer knows that the competition, the customers, the companies, the agency, the economy and anything else he can think of is the root cause of his lack of production. While the active producer looks inwardly to solve his problems the flamed-out producer searches for external causes of his difficulties.

Owner's also suffer flame-out. These people are often Retired In Place (See vol.4 Issue 4 Article titled R.I.P.). In extreme cases the flamed-out owner will cause his agency to be sold rather than accept the fact that his enthusiasm and zest for the business is gone. As the producer, the flamed-out owner tends to blame others for his business problems.

The primary way to avoid flame-out is to influence your employees and force yourself to continue to learn through out your career. For some reason it is very difficult to lose enthusiasm while you are trying out new things. Take courses pertaining to your business. Enroll in seminars whenever possible. Listen to motivational tapes and read books about new sales techniques or insurance products. Try changing technologies as the arise. Don't let yourself slip behind.

Recovering a flamed-out employee is very difficult. Unless they are recovered, however, these employees become the dinosaurs of your business. They may have been your best employees at one time but they are now satisfied to come into the office every morning, perform the minimal responsibilities of their jobs during the day and go home at night complaining about the situation at the office. The best way to attack flamed-out employees is to offer them challenges to which they must respond. If you can capture their interest and get them enthusiastic again you may regain that excellent employee that lies hidden somewhere within.

Regardless of how valuable an employee has been, once he or she has flamed-out they become worse than useless to the organization. They actually become detrimental to the employees who are still enthusiastic and will consciously or unconsciously try to convert the other employees to a pessimistic attitude. If you can identify the flamed-out employee and can not recover him, replace him.