Best Practices for Handling Disengaged Employees
It’s important to properly oversee your workforce to ensure not only productivity, but also that they are simply happy. If you are feeling like there are some disengaged employees, read the guide below on how to best approach the situation.
Employee disengagement is a worryingly common issue. While no executive or manager would argue with the idea that there are bad apples in the workforce, the majority of professionals are people trying to do a good job – and many hires do very well in the first few weeks at a new position.
But that enthusiasm often dies down and, after a honeymoon period, many employees begin to distance themselves from the person they were on Day One and start to feel absent and “barely there.” A more complex issue than meets the eye, disengaged employees are estimated to be a problem for most businesses as surveys indicate that two-thirds of Americans are disengaged from their jobs.
Most of these disengaged workers simply come in, punch in, and leave to go home as soon as they can. They don’t do overtime willingly, they aren’t invested in the company, they don’t feel like they belong or have any reason to be loyal to their employers, and generally just fly under the radar.
Can disengaged employees be motivated to do better? Oftentimes, yes. But only if you understand why they’re disengaged, to begin with.
What Makes an Employee Feel Disengaged?
A disengaged employee is a person who is bluntly unhappy with their job. They feel that they either:
a.) don’t fit in
b.) are undervalued or poorly managed
c.) feel cheated, or wronged by their employers, either directly or indirectly.
Disengaged employees can be recognized by the hallmark signs of professional stagnation, diminished output, and toxic behavior.
As with any relationship where one party is deeply unhappy, the root of the issue is often misunderstood or completely unknown to the other party. An important step in converting any disengaged employee back to an engaged one is communication – allow them to earnestly air their grievances and explain themselves, and their lack of motivation.
This is especially important if the person in question was once a promising and very enthusiastic hire. This is someone with tremendous potential and great initial energy – why did they stop bringing that energy to work with them?
Is It Your Fault or Theirs?
The blame game rarely leads to any sort of productive change at the office or elsewhere, but it bears mentioning that surveys found about 70 percent of cases of employee engagement were due to bad management. More often than not, it’s the manager’s fault.
But what do you do with that information? First, don’t allow yourself to jump to conclusions. There are still cases where employee engagement drops simply because the employee no longer feels they are a good fit for the company, and they’re looking for the right opportunity to afford themselves an amicable exit.
However, when it is a matter of poor management, finding ways to effectively measure why your workers feel disengaged will play a critical role in managing and eliminating the disengagement.
Workers Seek to Be Valued
A common grievance for many employees is that they no longer feel they have any reason to feel loyal to their company. We spend more time at work than we do with our family, on average, which often means that the office and one’s coworkers effectively must function as a second family away from home. A lack of social engagement, a poor or hostile company culture, or a woefully inefficient leadership style can all contribute to feeling disappointed in one’s workplace.
However, the most common grievance for many is a lack of opportunities for continued growth. Workers want to not only improve themselves and become more effective, more efficient, and more skilled, but they want to be more valuable – and they want that value to be recognized.
Many workers today seek to be a part of something greater, and while not every worker can make a serious impact on the course of a company, every worker does ultimately matter. And making sure they understand how they fit into it all and see how the fruits of their labor are leading to positive change can be a great motivator.
Millennials (born in the 80s up until the mid-90s) make up most of the workforce in America since 2016, and only about 20 percent report being happy with the way their performance is being managed and reviewed.
While generational differences are often exaggerated for clickbait, some of the marked differences in the way millennials engage with their work versus previous generations are real. Chief among them is the need for constant feedback as a way to seek out improvement and better efficiency.
If you are in a managerial position and largely employ millennials, be sure to provide feedback on their performance more often. Be constructively critical, praise them when you feel it is deserved, and help them achieve their goal of becoming a better and more efficient worker.
Offer More Location Flexibility
Today’s workforce, more so than at any other point in modern history, craves the ability to choose where to work. With remote working options touting a long list of benefits for productivity and creativity, it’s easy to see why the trend of working from anywhere but the office has grown drastically in the last few years.
Easy telecommuting tools make this much more feasible than it had been even just a decade ago. Coworkers can communicate, see each other, and collaborate on projects almost seamlessly, even across thousands of miles of distance.
Workers today shop online, do their banking online, date online, consume entertainment online, and communicate with loved ones online. With the spread of COVID-19, the transition into an increasingly digital world has been accelerated for many.
Rather than see the ability to work remotely as a privilege, many feel that modern technology has arrived at a point where, for most, it should simply be the new normal. Furthermore, consider that a whopping 44 percent of workers would agree to take a 10 percent pay cut for the ability to work remotely.
This doesn’t need to mean “work from home forever,” mind you. Companies can utilize the growth of coworking to encourage workers to work from anywhere, based on what currently suits them and their tasks best. Whether that’s the main office, a coworking space, a cozy and quiet café, or the comfort of their home office.
You can improve worker engagement by showing that you trust your workers to remain productive and dedicated to their job without constant micromanaging or supervision (but with constant access to a myriad of tools for instant feedback and communication).
You Can’t Force Someone to Engage
While you can adopt a variety of strategies to improve employee engagement, there will always be hires who started out looking like the perfect pick but lose interest over time.
Employees and employers can part ways amicably when their goals no longer match up. When an employee feels they’ve outgrown their position and their employer cannot offer a better opportunity, there’s no shame in ending a working relationship and wishing them the best in their endeavors. Disengagement is not always caused by a poor work environment – sometimes, it’s just not the right fit.