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Employee Disengagement: The Signs, Sources and Solutions

Posted by Insightlink on 08/30/12

There is little doubt that disengaged employees cost their employers a lot of money. These costs can come in many forms, including higher turnover, lower productivity, poor performance and higher customer dissatisfaction. In our Loyalty Matrix, we characterize these employees as “Dissatisfied Compromisers” and they often represent at least one-in-four employees.

There are a number of signs of disengagement among employees, including:

  • Increased absenteeism,
  • Coming in late and leaving early,
  • Taking longer lunches and breaks,
  • Making frequent negative comments about their work, supervisors, management and the company as a whole,
  • Being disconnected from their immediate supervisor,
  • Playing the “blame game,”
  • Showing little initiative or interest in work,
  • Lack of creativity and innovation,
  • Lack of trust and a strong sense of suspicion,
  • Missing deadlines and failing to meet other commitments,
  • Being quick to anger over small annoyances,
  • Resisting cooperation and collaboration on tasks that require teamwork,
  • Being complacent or even actively working against quality and/or safety standards, organizational policies, procedures, rules and regulations,
  • Failing to talk about the future and
  • Undermining or criticizing the contributions of their peers and colleagues.

In our experience, though, Dissatisfied Compromisers are not necessarily “hard wired” to be disengaged in their jobs. Rather, their lack of engagement may simply be a way of coping with work-related stress and other negative work factors. Some of the sources of this stress can be:

  • Mismatches between employees and their positions,
  • Having little or no control over their work patterns (i.e., being “micromanaged”),
  • Having few opportunities to grow, learn, develop or contribute to the organization,
  • Constantly dealing with poor and inadequate communications,
  • Having little sense of the direction of the organization,
  • Not feeling accountable for their work or believing that others are not being held accountable for their performance,
  • Receiving little or no performance feedback,
  • Taking no pride in the work that they do,
  • Feeling unneeded or unnecessary,
  • Not receiving any recognition or celebration of their accomplishments,
  • Having no real involvement in the decisions or changes that affect them directly and
  • Seeing no career path within the organization.

There are some clear steps that can be taken to help defuse the “process of disengagement” that your employees may be experiencing. These solutions include:

  1. Coaching employees continually on how to improve their work performance,
  2. Alerting employees when they are about to make embarrassing mistakes,
  3. Teaching employees new concepts and approaches to their work so that they can increase their value to your organization,
  4. Being brave enough to communicate with your employees in clear and direct language,
  5. Focusing on each individual’s assets rather than their weaknesses,
  6. Being honest in your own evaluation of your strengths and limitations as a leader,
  7. Paying special attention to your “quiet talent,” those employees who perform consistently but are not vocal about it,
  8. Inviting top performers to attend meetings and/or other events that they would not normally participate in, and
  9. Taking the “temperature” of your organization through tools such as employee surveys.
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Insightlink Communications are experts in employee survey design, data collection and analysis. Since 2001 we've helped companies of all sizes measure and improve their employee satisfaction and engagement.

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