Three Dangerous Things Disengaged Employees Say

April 13, 2016

Three Dangerous Things Disengaged Employees Say

There are some standard phrases you will hear from employees who have disengaged from your company. Three of those are dangerous because they have a direct connection to your bottom line.  When you hear any of the following three, your red alert siren should immediately start sounding.

It’s Not My Job. You hear this phrase and your mind needs to think, “Uh oh, silos.” The “not my job” folks either have lost their desire to be team players, or they never really were.  “Not my job” means the employee is going to do their specifically defined job and nothing more or they have a distinct allegiance to their departmental team and will do what it takes to make that unit successful and nothing more. Fixing this starts with having a management team that is free from turf wars, and who cascades those attitudes and values down throughout the organization. The fix also includes ensuring that each and every employee can tell you how their  specific job supports the company mission, and they believe in that connection.Graphic depicting the three clues described in the article

Those Pesky Customers. Customer satisfaction can take a huge hit from disengaged employees. So can employee satisfaction, for that matter. Because disengaged employees are just checking a box, they fail to go above and beyond for customers, to actively problem-solve, to put on their smile before they pick up the phone. And they don’t hesitate to complain about customers, sometimes loudly, affecting the attitudes of others around them. Unless a company has a standard definition of “excellent customer service,” and what “above and beyond” means, employees will make up their own definitions and resulting customer satisfaction levels will vary based on that.

In most companies, “customer” is defined as those external people who buy our products and services. There is usually little recognition that each employee has both external and internal customers. For example, while administrative employees (IT, human resources, finance, etc.) touch external customers in some of their processes, they serve other employees with much greater frequency. What are the standards of performance for serving their colleagues? Instituting standard definitions of “excellent service” for all customers is a starting point to begin re-engaging employees.

I’m Taking a Mental Health Day. “Mental health days” are sick days and/or personal time off used to provide time and space to manage stress. However, it’s the reason that employees take these days that we need to pay attention to. Today, the level of stress in the workplace is greater than it has ever been thanks to longer hours, constant connection, and more sedentary jobs.

Encouraging employees to disconnect and manage their stress is a good thing. Maybe there is about to be an unusually sunny day when it would be great for any employee’s mental health to spend a day hiking, golfing, or just drinking in the sunshine. So they manage their priorities and take a mental health day to do just that: disengage and de-stress. That’s good.

But when an employee takes a mental health day because they simply cannot face dealing with an obnoxious boss, a difficult colleague, or because they don’t see how their job matters, mental health days are problematic. In this case, the company is creating an environment that is affecting the employee’s outlook and their health. It’s a broken culture. One that has to be fixed from the top down.

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