What to Do if Your Direct Report is Trending Yellow

March 7, 2022

If your direct report is showing signs of burnout, or trending yellow during their Kona check-ins, here’s what to do next.

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5 mins

Table of Contents

You made the first step towards preventing burnout by introducing Kona to your team and consistently checking in on a daily basis. You’re on the right track!

But now comes the hard part. How do you leverage the insights at your fingertips?

You see Trending Yellow in your health dashboard and you have an upcoming one-on-one with a direct report with the following string of check-ins: 💚💛💛💛💛.

Now’s a critical moment as a leader. Here’s what to do next. 

Take a temperature check

Is a yellow check-in the right time to start a public thread and rally additional support for the team?

Read into the context that your direct report has provided when they check in 💛. 

If they’re 😵 Chaotic or 😥 Devastated without explanation, this could be a sign that you should reach privately to understand the root cause and show your support.

If they check-in 🤒 Sick or 😐 Neutral, this could be your opportunity to show your support publicly and encourage colleagues to chime in. 

Beyond determining an appropriate case-by-case response, look for patterns when your direct report checks in 💛. One 😴 Tired could mean a bad night’s sleep, but a string of 😴 Tired could spell burnout. Use these insights to drive next steps as their manager.

Leverage one-on-one time

It’s easy for one-on-ones to turn into a status update. 

But it’s crucial to use the time with your direct report wisely. 

Use documentation and your project management tool to keep track of your direct report’s progress, ask questions, and make edits asynchronously. 

Use your one-on-one time for connection, support, feedback, and guidance. Do less than 50% of the talking and ask questions to learn more about your direct report. 

Here’s how we break down the four components of a one-on-one:

1. Connection

Building trust with your direct reports is key to being the best manager you can be. 

Do that by developing a real connection and following through on everything you said you would. In a remote setting, you must be even more intentional about doing that during one-on-one video meetings. 

Keep a running list of key takeaways from your conversations with direct reports as a reminder (we use private Notion boards to document these!). Your notes can be anything from “loves red tulips,” to surprise them with something special in the future, or “enjoys mini golf” to add it to your next in-person meetup agenda. 

Questions you can ask

  • How are you doing?
  • What are you looking forward to?
  • Did you have a chance to do [insert hobby] this week?

2. Support

Learn how you can support them better to help turn a 💛 into a 💚. 

Will a solution or empathy lead to a 💚? 

Sometimes a solution, like taking something off of their plate, can turn a yellow trend around. Other times, you just need to show support and help them feel seen.

Questions you can ask

  • Can I take [insert to-do] off your plate?
  • Do you need more time for [insert to-do]?
  • Will it help if I add [insert coworker’s name] to the project for assistance?

3. Feedback

Perhaps your direct report has been Trending Yellow because they feel like their work is going unrecognized. Or, they feel like you haven’t responded to reviewed your work in a timely manner. 

Give and receive feedback during your video one-on-ones. Non-verbal cues can make all the difference, so that’s why we like save these for real-time conversations. 

We engage in feedback loops through the Rose and Thorn exercise, which categorizes feedback into successes and challenges.

Questions you can ask:

  • Did I unblock you enough to meet this week’s [insert project] deadline?
  • Do you have a rose and thorn for me?
  • You did an amazing job at [insert project]. How can I support you better next time?

4. Guidance

Perhaps your direct report is Trending Yellow because they feel stuck in their role. 

One of your key roles as a manager is to support your direct reports in reaching their career goals. But you can only do this by understanding where they are and where they want to go. 

Questions you can ask:

  • What part of your role do you like the most? Dislike the most?
  • What would be the perfect role for you?
  • Which new responsibilities would you like to take on in the next several months and years?

Offer resources

What if you find out that your direct report is feeling down lately?

You don’t need all of the answers as a manager. But you do need to act on feedback.

Leverage your company’s perks to share resources that your direct report could benefit from. 

For example, if your direct report is struggling with sleep, let them know that your company has a free subscription to Headspace or that they can take a mental health day when they're feeling that way.

Or, if your direct report is still looking for a therapist, prepare them with a list of your company’s therapy benefits. 

If your company doesn’t have the perks that you think would be beneficial for your workplace, now is your opportunity to bring it up to leadership. 

Gather data on what other companies are doing and present them to leadership along with your health dashboard data.

Examples of mental health benefits include:

  • Buffer and Remote offers Modern Health for employees. 
  • Google offers employee assistance programs focused on mental health
  • At Kona, we offer unlimited mental health days. Employees can take the day off when they need it.

Your job as a manager is to advocate for your direct reports. Yellow Trends could be a sign that it’s time for you to push for change. 

Develop a long-term solution

When you see a trend in the health dashboard, it’s inherently longer term. That’s why you should put a longer-term solution in place. 

For example, if you take something off of your direct report’s plate, consider their assigned workload in future weeks. Can you change the way you assign projects to avoid this again?

When you uncover the reason for Trending Yellow, transparently discuss and establish an action plan with your direct report. Once you both agree on a step forward, revisit and iterate on that action plan in each one-on-one to ensure that your direct report feels seen.

Keep them top of mind

As you have discussions with your direct report and create an action plan, keep an eye on them to see if they dip into Trending Red

Use our feature to handle that for you. If your direct report is Trending Yellow, you’ll be asked if you want to “Keep an eye on this individual.” Select “yes” to make their check-ins more top-of-mind for you automatically.

As a manager, you don’t need all of the answers. But you do need to look for the signs and work with your team members to find a sustainable solution. Kona is there to support you in that. 

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