Sally was very excited to start her new job. She got to work the first day early. She had a great time meeting everyone and seeing the systems she would be working with. Enthusiastically, she finished every task for the first week early. Sally found a new way of handling invoicing which saved hours of work. Not one manager thanked her for her time-saving contribution. After the first week, she was left all alone in her cubicle. No one told her who to talk to in the large company when issues came up. Her manager, always busy, would brush her off. Sally started missing deadlines. But no one seemed to care. After she figured it out on her own, she could easily meet the deadlines early but why bother? No one acknowledged her work and Sally began to feel his efforts made no difference and she was irrelevant.
Every day became like that.
Sally stopped caring if her work was done on time because no one else cared. The break room was full of other people who didn’t care either so they stood around gossiping about the latest office catastrophe. She no longer comes in early. In fact, she has been coming in later and later and sneaking out as early as she can get away with. Sally’s work is done and done correctly but no extra effort is put into it. She realizes that even though she could get the work done early, no one will appreciate it. In fact, her manager will grumble that she has to find a new assignment for her to work on. Sally learns it is best to stretch out her assignments as long as she can. Sally’s coworkers are so negative and caustic that Sally decides it is impossible to keep a positive attitude and it is easier to “go along to get along” and complain with everyone else. Sally’s job that she was so excited about has become a meaningless, life-sucking, daily grind that is not worth caring about. So Sally just fantasizes about getting out of there. Surely it would be better somewhere else.
What happened to the enthusiasm? Can it come back?
3 Types of Employees
According to Gallup, there are 3 levels of employee engagement.
- Engaged – “Involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace” (33% in 2016).
- Not Engaged – “Silent or Withdrawn, Oppositional, and generally has No Initiative” the silent majority. 51% of the Gallup poll falls in this category!
- Actively Disengaged – These are the easy to spot miserable employees who absolutely don’t want to be there (16% in 2016).
You can probably name a few Type 1s and a few Type 3s in your business. It is the Not-Engaged employee that is a little harder to see. They are experts at blending in. Silently, they suffer through work.
Just imagine how fun, productive and healthy your workplace could be if you converted that 51% into engaged employees!
How can you find them and what can you do?
Let’s first look at the easier to spot Actively Disengaged team member.
Top Traits of an Actively Disengaged Employee
- Lacks enthusiasm
- Doesn’t ask questions
- Often complaining
- Gossips about team members
- Doesn’t connect with company goals
- No extra effort in anything
- Consistent tardiness
- Suffers from workplace burnout
Subtle Signs of a Not-Engaged Employee
The attitude and behaviors of an actively disengaged employee are fairly easy to identify. On the other hand, spotting an employee that is “not-engaged” will require more attention.
- Little to No Initiative
Spotting this may tougher because your employee might actually be doing good work, however, they’re just doing enough to get by. When you know your employee has more to offer but don’t see them volunteering, that’s an indication they may be unplugged. They could be bored or have learned that initiative doesn’t pay off which has led to disconnecting from the workplace.
- Many Breaks
Does your employee really have a nicotine addiction or are they leaving their desk because they don’t want to be there? Do your employees drink as much coffee at home as at work or are your disengaged employees using coffee as an excuse to walk away from work they have zero desire to finish?
A quiet employee isn’t necessarily a disengaged employee. You could simply have an introverted, focused or reflected employee. But, if an entire doesn’t chime in on matters that directly affect them, or if a Team has no celebrations or joy over an accomplishment, they could be silently disengaged. Silence can be a vote of no confidence and energy preservation when a team member has lost faith.
- Talking on the phone or texting
When your Team member is disengaged, they escape any way they can.
A disengaged employee is a distracted employee. Companies on the highest end of engagement had a 70% lower incident of workplace accidents and safety violations. Also, they had 58% fewer patient safety incidents.
The Great News: You can turn this attitude around with a clear plan and strategies.
Improve Employee Engagement
- More than “just a survey.” Have a dialogue and listen. Act on what your employees are saying they need.
- Inspire. Many companies mistake engagement with the nebulous feeling of happiness. Show your employees their value. Don’t just tell them. Include everyone in company goal planning. Have inspirational goals instead of only monetary goals. Make your company focused on your greatest asset, your Team members.
- Start at the top. Hold the managers and department leaders accountable. Not only will your employees notice their engagement but they will feel more valued because their leaders have a standard to meet also.
- Meet basic needs. Does your Team member have everything to successfully complete a task? If they have to go looking around for things or deal with broken equipment their engagement will drop.
- Invest in employee development. One often overlooked need is to learn and grow. Do you promote employee mentorship programs for new employees allowing an employee you have had for years grow into a new role? Coaching programs? Classes for new strategies? Know what drives your employee and make an investment there.
- New opportunities. Boredom is often at the top of the list of a disengaged employee. Doing the same thing day-in-and-day-out for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week can be absolutely mind-numbing. Can they visit clients once a month instead of only talking on the phone or emailing? Get creative and allow your Team members to come up with their own projects that will help the company goal in any fashion. Their project could help another department not only their own. Let them experiment and create ownership of their work.
- Discover hidden talents. One (or more) of your Team members is silently waiting to use their amazing skill in something you desperately need. Find them. Give them the freedom to soar.
- Try Flexible Work Hours. “While flexibility isn’t a reality for all workers, many want it to be. Gallup consistently has found that flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee’s decision to take or leave a job. Employees are pushing companies to break down the long-established structures and policies that traditionally have influenced their workdays.” If your employees can meet deadlines and goals at home, let them. Communication these days is easy and instant.
A disengaged team member is not a bad person. They are not a lost cause. Don’t give up on people! Finding the reason for their disengagement and putting corrective measures in place will foster a healthy work environment. Everyone at your company will be happier, more productive, and thank you for it.
When you need a second set of eyes to come in and help find the areas of disengagement, call us. Painefree Coaching & Consulting offers organizations and individuals proven solutions and transformative results.
We help high-performing leaders, teams, and organizations who positively impact the lives of other people to confront their roadblocks, crystalize their change strategies and convert their problems into possibilities. Contact us today