The Gallup Organization estimates that 27% of workers worldwide are actively disengaged at work. This is a state of mind where an employee is so discouraged at work that they essentially quit and stay—doing only what is marginally required of them to keep their job, but little more. In some extreme cases it can be even worse with disengaged workers actively working against an organization’s goals and spreading their discontent to other workers. In the U.S. alone, this level of disengagement is estimated to cost employers over $300 billion dollars a year in lost productivity.
While some of the factors that contribute to disengagement need to be addressed at an organizational level, there is one action that managers at all levels can take that will help the situation. Talking about it. Staying quiet on the subject and hoping that it gets better on its own never works out. In fact, usually, things will get worse.
As the late great business author Peter Drucker pointed out, “Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”
Having a conversation with someone who has fallen into a state of disengagement can be a challenge. There is usually some history that has to be dealt with, as well as some shared responsibility for the situation. As a leader though, you have to address the situation squarely. That means setting up some time to have a conversation.
It will also be important to put some structure around that conversation. One great framework that you can use are the 12 employee work passion factors identified by Blanchard as the factors which most impact employee intentions to perform at high levels, actively endorse the organization, and be a good corporate citizen. Some thinking on your part, and some gentle inquiry around these areas in your first conversation, will help to provide that structure.
It’s also important to keep things positive and assume the best intentions. Even though things may be in a difficult spot currently, it’s important to remember that very few people want to go into work to see what they can screw up. That’s almost always a long term reaction to the environment.
Don’t wait and hope for things to get better. Take some action today. Most people, if given the chance, want to be magnificent. What can you do to help bring out that magnificence in your people? You’ll never know unless you ask.
PS: Interested in learning more? Don’t miss this special online event!
On January 25, over 40 thought leaders from a wide variety of organizations will be getting together to share their ideas on how to address the quit and stayed phenomenon in a unique Leadership Livecast. This is a free online event being hosted by The Ken Blanchard Companies and over 5,000 people have already registered to hear how to address the problem from an individual, team, or organization-wide point of view.
To learn more—or to participate in this complimentary online event, check out the information on the Quit and Stayed Leadership Livecast here.
6 thoughts on “A first step any leader can take to improve employee engagement”
Imagine what organizations can accomplish with everyone in the boat rowing in the same direction!
Hi Linda–you are so right! I think we are only scratching the surface of what we could achieve in most organizations. Some estimates I’ve seen suggest that organizations are only working at about 70% of their potential due to less than optimal leadership practices. Thanks for your comment.
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