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4 Biggest Culprits for Employee Disengagement


Are your employees slacking off? Constantly procrastinating on projects? Frequently missing work? Often, these are telling signs that your employees are disengaged.

So, what should you do when you notice that your employees are checked out?

Here are the four most common culprits for employee disengagement and how to stop them in their tracks.

1. A lack of appreciation for their work

When employees don’t receive recognition for their work, the quality of their work can quickly decline.

It can lead employees to think, “Why bother when no one seems to notice? And it’s not like my work is making a difference anyway.”

Communication is key. You might start by asking, “How are you doing? Is everything alright?”

If employees complain about not being properly recognized, get a feel for their expectations. Not everyone seeks to be rewarded or recognized in the same manner. It’s about understanding what makes each individual feel appreciated.

For example, you could say, “What are your primary motivators? Is it your personal desire to do well, or are you driven by monetary return?”

Expectations run the gamut. For some employees, it’s as simple as saying “great job,” while others need to see a potential reward to keep pushing toward their goals.

For example, give an extrinsically motivated employee a concrete goal. If he understands that for every 100 widgets he creates, he earns $3,000, he will continue to keep his eye on the prize.

Determine what appeals to each person and how you can help him or her feel valued and motivated.

2. No opportunity for career advancement

There are plenty of employees who are content in their roles, have no desire to progress and simply love what they do. But there are just as many others who want nothing more than to advance.

For employees interested in advancement, no opportunity equals assured disengagement.

Managers often miss the mark by not understanding their employees’ ultimate career desires. You must get to know employees on an individual basis.

You can begin by understanding their generational needs. While millennials often enjoy change and fluidity in their roles, Gen Xers want to see the definitive steps it takes to reach the next opportunity. Meanwhile, boomers like to feel secure and stable in their current roles.

With this in mind, open up a dialogue. Ask about their aspirations.

For employees who express a desire for upward mobility, work with them to create a plan for career pathing. For example, you might say, “I know you want to be in [this position] in 18-24 months. How can we get you there? What does that require of you? And what does that require of me?”

In a larger company, it may require you to make introductions for your employees to other departments in areas of their interest.

In a smaller company, you’ll have to find other opportunities for growth. For example, have your employees job shadow, or allow them to work on short-term assignments in other areas. This gives them the necessary exposure so that when those opportunities do open up, they have some insight into what the job entails.

Even if there are limited opportunities for true advancement, continue to develop employees. While this might seem counterintuitive to develop employees who might leave, it’s the only way to keep these employees engaged.

And it will help you build trust with the employee over time – possible enough so that they give you advance notice before they depart. For example, if you know an employee has plans to eventually leave, you can be prepared and ensure that she shares institutional knowledge with co-workers, or even her replacement, before she departs.

The bottom line is, if you ignore these ambitious employees, they will eventually feel as though they’ve reached a ceiling at your company. They will either stay and become very dissatisfied, or they will leave.

3. A lack of autonomy

Some employees struggle with making decisions. Others fight for independence.

For those employees who like autonomous work, red tape and bureaucracy are the bane of their existence. Too many roadblocks can quickly become disheartening.

Managers must relinquish some control by allowing employees to make decisions and make their own mistakes. Micromanagement stunts employee growth and prohibits learning opportunities.

Allow employees to have an appropriate amount of authority to make decisions related to their work.

When mistakes do occur, don’t jump to conclusions. Try to understand employees’ reasons for why they did what they did. Simply ask, “Why did you decide to do it this way?”

Once you have some background on the situation, turn it into an opportunity for the employee to grow and learn. Explain how he could’ve handled the situation differently for a better result. Your employee will benefit from the chance to learn from his mistakes.

4. The company’s values don’t align with employees’ values

Employees who feel like they have to compromise their values to keep their jobs will feel less committed to their work. After all, why should they work hard for a company that goes against their beliefs?

For example, if an employee is an avid volunteer, she may become frustrated if your company makes her take unpaid time off to participate in community service activities.

Instead of just saying “no” to employees’ requests, consider constructing a strategy or compromise that will minimize negative effects on your business.

For example, if that employee comes to you and expresses her interest in a particular volunteer project, hear her out. Consider how she could take part in the project without it disrupting your business priorities.

For instance, you might say, “We can’t do everything that you proposed, but how about we work out a system where you can be compensated for volunteer hours when working on special projects?”

When you offer a compromise, you show employees how much you care and value them as team members.

At the end of the day, your business couldn’t function without your employees. Take the time to show your employees that you respect them as individuals and appreciate their work. Your company will reap the rewards.

Want more tips on how to keep employees motivated and engaged? Download your complimentary copy of The Insperity Guide to Employee Engagement, Issue 1, now.