I am pretty sure that when you think or hear of the term engagement – the first thing that comes to mind is a proposal for marriage. Yes, the moment the man or woman (not so uncommon these days) pops the question and ask his/her beloved for their hand in marriage. If you thought so, you would be quite right but that’s not what I am thinking, nor is it the focus of this post.
In today’s workplace, the term engagement is a relatively new buzz word used to describe the degree to which employees are motivated, happy, satisfied with the work they do, interested in their organizations, and display support for the company’s mission or their team. On the other hand, disengagement speaks a situation where employee’s behaviors and attitudes are negative, morale is low and they do the bare minimum to get by. Studies suggest that between 20-30% of employees within organizations are disengaged. As such, one would reasonably conclude that each organization is comprised of two categories of employees – the engaged and the disengaged.
In any organization and for any manager or leader, the engaged employee is a dream. Not unlike a newly engaged person, this individual is happy, finds meaning in their work, supports the fellow members of the team and are highly productive. They are driven and they get the job done. On the flip side, are the disengaged employees. These are the unhappy ones, less motivated by the work they are doing and even less satisfied with their jobs. Usually, the disengaged employee operate at two extremes. That is, from the heavy silence and passive participation in meetings/ teams to the vocal opposition, negative attitudes/opinions they express when anything is to be done or any change is proposed. Working with them, is akin to pulling teeth and saps your energy. Because for them, it is never just about the matter at hand, but everything else (past and present) as they are shackled by the history of their experiences. Does any of this sound familiar or does anyone come to mind?
I’m sure by now you are probably making a mental note the people in your organization to whom these categories applies. But better yet, do you know where you fall? Are you engaged or not? Regardless of what your answer is, there is no need to judge or condemn these persons. The issues they struggle with are real. And however this is manifested, they need help and support from their supervisors and coworkers. I’ve not always thought so. But, I have come to learn that at some point of our work lives, we ourselves are not immune. We too risk becoming disengaged, or can slide along the continuum (engagement or disengagement) as a result of a problem with a supervisor, a small win, a big failure or just the general work environment/culture of the organization.
Which brings me to the point? What really causes an individual to become disengaged? A quick review of the literature will tell you that disengagement might be caused by one or all of the following:
- Lack of respect from management.
- Employee feeling that his/her contribution or work is not valued.
- Inadequate knowledge/understanding of company’s mission or even how they fit in.
- Inequity and unfairness in how employees are treated(managers have favorites).
- Poor working relationships with supervisor and managers.
A case in point was my first experience with a disengaged coworker. She was a very mature, knowledgeable and competent individual who had spent over 15 years working with the company, prior to the 8+ years we worked together. After a couple of interactions, watching her body language in meetings, observing her level of responsiveness and just the negative attitude and tone with which she operated, I was pretty annoyed. She was never rude, but I wondered how someone with such a wealth of experience and maturity could be like that. And better yet, if she was so obviously unhappy with the company and the work, why didn’t she just leave? Why torture herself? Why make life and work more difficult for the other people with whom she worked, due to the sheer amount of effort and energy, they would have to expend to work effectively with her.
Though I struggled to understand why she was just like that, I came to accept that there were many others like her as well. While she was expressive, the others were silent and passive. I figured that, at the very least, we all had a job to do and that job paid our bills. And as long as that was true, then each of us had an obligation to give of our best efforts. That for me was simply a matter of personal integrity. I would later learn my annoyance was misplaced, for she like others who were , were not always like that. Once upon a time, she too had been engaged and she did in fact, love what she did. Unfortunately, she had, had, one too many bad experiences in the workplace –with leaders, supervisors and even customers. As a result, she no longer trusted the organization. And since everyone had a right to work, she responded as best she could to survive.
Therefore, it important that both organizations and individuals remember:
- Organizations through their management teams and climate they create or foster, have an obligation to provide a “safe and enabling environment” for their employees to thrive and grow.
- Issues left ignored or swept under the rug- do not disappear. The buildup and may later threaten to derail even the very best employees and the most engaged.
- Disengaged employees hurt organizations as much as they hurt themselves. They are likely to hurt an organizations performance and bottom line due to their levels of service and productivity.
- Disengaged employees can negatively affect an organization’s culture or may even negatively influence new recruits.
- Both organizations and individuals have to make a conscious effort to recognize and assess the levels of engagement amongst employees in their organization and in themselves.
Images Courtesy of Google.
Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved