Sometimes student employees leave campus jobs because they dislike the job or they have too much on their plate. Other times, you have to let them go for disciplinary reasons. For almost any reason, seeing student employees leave is never fun. Today, I’d like to share with you some red flags that may tell you, “It might be time for this student to take a break from work.”
Student Employees: “There’s Too Much Happening!”
The student thought they could handle taking x-number of hours this semester, working 10-15 hours per week, and maintaining a social life. Turns out, they weren’t quite ready for this combination. Some red flags: Look for the student who calls in sick often. Take note of which students are spending a lot of office time studying. I recommend that you sit down with your student staff regularly to ask, “How’s it going?” and then analyze the heck out of their responses, both verbal and non-verbal.
If a student says, “I’m fine!” but sighs heavily, rolls his or her eyes, or shifts their positioning in a negative manner – you better ask again, but ask about something specific. If a student uses phrases like, “I’m staying afloat!” or, “Well, I’m here!” these should also create an alert in your leader brain. If you talk with a student about how they’re handling working and their studies, be honest with them about the job’s demands and their coursework as a priority. If a student is struggling, let it be known that they are a student first.
Student Employees Exhibit Laziness or Careless Behavior
If a student worker is lazy, you’ll be able to tell. Look for a lack of completed tasks and a constant need to remind student staff to do their work. You can also ask others in the office to let you know if students are surfing social media sites during office hours when they’ve been assigned a task. When it comes to careless behavior, check for mistakes. You don’t want to “parent” a student employee, but if errors consistently show up despite your mentoring and reminders, then you might need to have a discussion about their responsibilities and consequences for not living up to them.
Student Employees Show Disregard for Job
Sometimes, careless behavior can evolve into utter apathy. The student may do the bare minimum to keep the job. For the most part, they may ignore emails, not complete tasks, or any combination of other duty-related issues. When a student stops caring, you need to find out why. One approach is to make a mental note of which tasks aren’t being completed and ask the student how classes are going, how life is going, or if there is anything they’d like to do differently in their current job. If the student responds negatively, it could be time to let that student move on to avoid harm being done to the department’s productivity.
Recently, I had a student mentor appear bored and annoyed with their duties. However, when I asked, “Is there something you’d like to learn in this job that you haven’t already?” their entire demeanor changed. It is evident in their posture and tone of voice. When you show interest in students’ growth, it matters.
At the end of the day, I don’t want anyone to read this and think, “Oh, the student messed up and Brittni said this qualifies as a reason to let them go.” No way. I believe everyone deserves a chance to explain their behavior or actions. A leader should make an effort to get to know student employees and ask them how classes are going, how work is going, and if they’re managing their time well. If a student is not performing well at work, there is likely a larger issue elsewhere that should be discussed.
For example, a student who is terrible at time management in the office may also be behind in coursework. If your campus offers study skills, time management, or organization workshops to students, ask that student to attend as part of their professional development. There is no “one size fits all” set of red flags or solutions when it comes to student employees. You just have to make well-informed decisions that will work for you, your department, and above all else, the students.
Is it difficult for you to let student staff go? What are some red flags you’ve seen? Sound off in the comments below and give us all some advice!
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