Disengaged Employees Aren’t Helpful

Just because your employees are sticking with you for now does not mean they’re happy; it may just mean they are afraid to jump out of their comfort zone and look for something else. Ultimately, though, they may decide to leave, or take other actions that hurt your organization.

Employee engagement — measured by such things as intent to stay and discretionary effort — generally is not as high as we would like in most markets across Asia. You may have plenty of unengaged employees in your workplace, people who are showing up each day essentially for the paycheck, and giving you some effort even if it’s not 100%. What’s worse, though, are the disengaged employees, people who are actively looking to leave or who are doing things that will hurt your business because they just don’t care or are simply so unhappy.

Author Matt Monge once suggested some of the things you will find disengaged employees doing, including:

  1. Withdrawing from the situation by frequently missing work or by quitting altogether. Of the two, it’s probably better if they just quit, because then you might be able to hire a more engaged replacement, but short-notice quitting damages your business, too.
  2. Staying on the job and showing up in the office, but withdrawing psychologically. Even though they are there, they are not actively pursuing anything, and they don’t interact much with others.
  3. Being less productive over time. Their output slows down, they interact less with clients, and they hold onto information rather than sharing it.
  4. Members of your team try anything they can to get out of the team. You may see people requesting transfers within the company, and if you try to block them, their next step may be to simply quit.
  5. Forming cliques and alliances. Disengaged employees find other disengaged employees, and they sit around and complain about everything, including probably you. That simply reinforces the negativity, and generally doesn’t lead to any positive solutions.
  6. Through their conversations and conduct, they teach their fellow employees that their work isn’t rewarding, the outlook of the organization is grim, or that your organization is simply no good. That idea that “one bad apple spoils the bunch” is true, and you are especially susceptible to this when your organization is going through challenging times — and let’s face it, that’s when you need your good employees to be at their best, not questioning everything.

I can relate to #4. When I was in my last military assignment, at the Pentagon, I reported for duty and was told, “We assigned someone else the role we were going to give you, but don’t worry, we’ll fnd something for you to do.” was so unhappy with that situation that I volunteered to go to Afghanistan. We had others who volunteered for duty in Iraq and Djibouti. When people are volunteering to go to war zones rather than work for you, there’s a problem.

Do you see these in your own workplace? Are there any other things you would add?