There are two primary forms of employee disengagement, both of which can hurt general morale and undermine company productivity. (Actually there are several, but for now we’ll keep things simple.) These two forms involve 1.) day-to-day disengagement and 2.) long term or chronic disengagement, which usually foretells an employee’s exit from the company. Here are a few ways to recognize and fight back against both.
This form, also known as the 2:00 doldrums, (or the 10:30 AM doldrums) appears one episode at a time. At one point or another, we’ve all felt this way. It happens when the quarterly spreadsheets or the new product launch which seemed so important a day before suddenly mean less than nothing to an employee. If he’s blinking through the meeting, staring out the window, or gazing at his notes with a blank expression, he may be miles away. If she’s at her desk writing comment after comment on internet blogs, she’d probably rather go home (or submit to water torture) than spend one more minute in this place.
Sometimes, even when the company is paying us good money for our time, our time is not being used to the company’s best advantage. So if you’re an employer, what can you do to fight back against this occasional– but natural– cost of working with human beings?
Start by recognizing when this tends to happen. During rainy days or quiet points in your seasonal business cycle? Immediately after a major project comes to an end? And when you know you’re vulnerable, take action. Call on checked-out employees in meetings and ask (respectfully) for their opinions. Change things up by rotating responsibilities. Bring employees out of their cubicles for team activities. And always, always show your thanks for their hard work, especially when you see them fighting distractions for the benefit of the company, and for you.
When chronic disengagement sets in, the problem lies with the company, not with the employee. Before you lose your most talented workers to your competitors, take action. Hand out anonymous satisfaction surveys and ask employees directly what resources they need to keep them excited about their work. Using the results of these surveys, develop new incentives, new forms of fun and friendly competition, and new forms of performance-based reward.
And as you do this, don’t let up for a minute on the genuine thanks and attention that your hardworking employees deserve. Notice every extra effort and reward every sign of the kinds of behavior (such as risk taking or initiative) that support the culture you’d like to build. Whatever you do, do it quickly and decisively, since systemic chronic disengagement usually doesn’t disappear on its own.
For more help with the resolution of both of these issues, arrange a consultation with the NC staffing and management experts at PSU.