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What to Do When an Employee Is Struggling with A Creative Block

by Leila Dorari

March 27, 2018 - When recruiting creatives for your company, it is quite important to know that an evaluation of one's creativity is a tricky job. A lot of companies depend on the creativity of their employees to stay productive, still, it is impossible to quantify one's creativity. An employee with the least original ideas can come up with a masterpiece, while even the most prolific of your staff members can flop on occasion.

Furthermore, in a situation where you decide to place a person you're recruiting to a test, there's always a risk that they will get their favorite or least favorite topic to write about. Then again, you might face a promising potential employee who is currently facing a creativity block, which will make them horribly underperform on the test in question. Needless to say, this is a huge missed opportunity for both parties.

Keep in mind, however, a creative block is not something final. In order to stop being fearful of hiring people who encounter their first creative block soon after they start working for you, you need to learn a couple of ways in which you can help them overcome it. With this in mind and without further ado, here are several steps, tips and pointers that can be used to help one overcome a creative block.

1. How big of a problem is it?
Sure, as the number of your employees (creatives in particular) grows, the results you get from them will start getting more and more consistent, still, while you're running a startup or an SME (small or medium enterprise), a creative block by a single employee can become a huge deal. Imagine a scenario where you have five designers, developers or content writers. In a situation where one of them encounters a creative bloc, what you're facing is a potential 20 percent drop in productivity. Needless to say, this is a huge problem that can significantly harm your company.

2. Establish the nature of the block

If the barrier is of the emotional nature, this can be particularly hard seeing as how your employee might not be quite comfortable with sharing its cause. For instance, if there is a personal problem beneath their block, it might be impossible to overcome it before A) the problem is solved or B) the employee in question learns how to cope with it in a more efficient manner.

As an employer, you can do one of two things. First, you can show them that you're there for them if they need someone to talk to or lean on. Second, you can offer them a short leave to work out these issues. In this period, you might want to get a temporary replacement for them, sometimes even in a form of a freelancer, so that their position remains open when they're finally ready to come back.

3. Look into their work conditions

Another thing you need to keep in mind is that this problem might be external. The equipment or software they work on might be outdated, the environment might be too noisy, while the office may be too dark, too humid or too cold. Luckily, all of these are things you have a direct control over. Venting the room, setting a different temperature, purchasing new equipment and investing in silent peripherals (noise-canceling earbuds and silent keyboards) are all efficient solutions to this problem. Creativity is a tricky issue and in most cases, you can't pour money over your problems and hope they will disappear.

4. Try to motivate them

Sometimes, an intrinsic motivation can be so powerful that it can help your employees overcome a serious creative block on its own. The chance of advancement, raise or even a more suitable lateral movement can serve as a great incentive. Some companies even offer relocation to their international offices. In fact, the change of scenery can sometimes be a great way to help one overcome their creative issue.

For instance, imagine a scenario where your company has an office in the US and another one in Australia. What if you were to offer your employee a chance to carry on their career on another continent if they so desired. Sure, you would have to handle the specifics with your immigration lawyers from Sydney but, apart from that, your company gets the privilege of keeping the productivity of one of its most valuable members at their peak.

5. Show some understanding

Finally, sometimes, these things happen and there's nothing you can do about it. Nevertheless, a creative block simply can't last indefinitely, even though an affected employee might dread this possibility from time to time. The only thing you can do here is - show some understanding. The truth is that you can't expect all of your employees to be at the peak of their performance at all times. This is something that isn't possible even in positions that have nothing creative about them, let alone for people who need to come up with a new solution to an old problem day in and day out.

Everyone is allowed to have a bad day, month or even a year and your ability to see past this is what makes the difference between good recruiters and the best recruiters. Performing great during testing or an interview is definitely a great indicator but managing to see the potential behind an employee who is currently not giving their best is a rare skill indeed.

About the author

Leila Dorari is an entrepreneur, freelance writer and business-improvement enthusiast from Sydney. Currently, she is consulting companies on how to organize a company culture for a maximum motivation and productivity. In her spare time, you can usually find her window shopping or hiking with her furry four-legged friend.

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