Plain talk is needed to make your expectations clear and to be sure she’s in the right role.

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Q: We’ve recently added a new analyst to our staff. She just graduated from college and has some of the right skills, but is somewhat lackadaisical in her approach to her work. What can we do to increase her engagement?

A: Plain talk is needed to make your expectations clear and to be sure she’s in the right role.

Taking the emotions out of the situation, think about the actual events. It’s easy to exaggerate or to see things as “always” or “never.” Be sure that you can specifically describe the issues that you’re concerned about. Also think about the positives in her work.

Then take your employee’s point of view. If she were to describe her new position, what might she say? Consider whether she really has clarity on what she should be doing and what to do when she finishes her tasks.

Think about your culture and how it might be supporting her or falling short. For example, does your organization have a “sink or swim” feel? If so, people who are less assured might struggle with asking for the support they need.

Get feedback from others as well. Do other teammates share your point of view? Perhaps they have different perspectives or ideas to help bring her along.

On the other hand, an underproductive employee can bring down morale, so determine whether that dynamic is at play.

Finally, clarify your expectations. What would you like to see in three months? In six months? After a year? Know where you could compromise, and what is not negotiable.

Recognize that direct communication will be the key to success, either through ongoing mentoring to help your new team member fit in her role, or in helping her realize that the job isn’t the right fit.

Set up a time to meet with her. Lay out your observations, and ask for her perspective on how the job is going. To draw her out, ask about a variety of aspects, such as her specific responsibilities or her relationships with co-workers. Then let her know your expectations. Even if you feel that you’ve communicated them before, it’s worth restating them.

If she seems hesitant about her position, try to determine whether she is still adjusting to a professional role, or whether the position fits her skills and goals. If you feel that there’s potential for her, set up a schedule for regular meetings. Be sure that she develops a support network that extends more deeply into the company.

Also, accept that she just may not be willing to step up, or maybe she isn’t the right fit for the job. Be direct in addressing your new employee’s approach to work so that she can either step it up or move on.

Submit questions to career coach Liz Reyer at