Everyone plays on some kind of team: family, co-workers, sports, or a band. We do not exist in isolation. Even Alaskan mountain men receive regular supplies delivered by bush pilots to support their lifestyle. We are relational beings and function best when our life is interdependent upon other people. When one member is experiencing fatigue, he or she can bring the whole team down.

Have you heard the old saying, “You can’t push a rope?”  I think this provides a picture of what happens when we try to force fatigued people to contribute more. Regardless of how much we hope their behavior will change, it simply does not make a lasting difference.

Fatigue has many causes. People dealing with chronic illness may face chronic fatigue. Long sports season creates fatigue on the body and mind. Long workdays, over many months, can lead to physical, psychological, or emotional fatigue.

When faced with a fatigued teammate, we have the propensity pick up the slack rather than dealing with the under performing individual. We conclude it is quicker to do what the fatigued person should be doing.

Unfortunately, when a person feels fatigue, diminishing their contribution to the team, they feel robbed. Motivation is lost under feelings of under appreciation and non-respect that creep into the psyche. Fatigued team members need our intentional support if they are going to pull their share of the load.

How can we help a person who is fatigued and driving the team down?

  1. Inquire: Invite the person to coffee or schedule a short meeting. Simply share your observations about their performance. Listen to their answer.
  2. Interpret: You must determine if the cause of their fatigue is work or personal related. Some life stages lend to seasons of fatigue, such as returning to work after the birth of a baby or caring for aging parents. It is important to understand the root cause of their fatigue and not to project your assumptions on them.
  3. Ask: Advice usually sounds cheap to a person who is struggling. The very act of advice giving can sound judgmental or feel defeating. Ask them how they are handling the situation and affirm their efforts.
  4. Respect: At times, it is simply not possible to alleviate fatigue. There are situations that represent a “Catch 22”, or a situation that offers no immediate solution. Recognizing this fact by expressing your empathy rather than your judgment can go a long way to encourage them.
  5. Help: While you want to avoid becoming an enabler, explore ways to offer help. A little relief can be a big encouragement.

Every teammate is important. Pushing people who are fatigued adds to the problem and is seldom effective. The push needs to come from within. Creating this push requires a pull. A pull requires an attitude of leadership and understanding that creates a nudge. A nudge can represent a welcome encouragement by a teammate who cares.

How do you encourage fatigued team members?

Fatigue and Your Team
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