Why Are There Disengaged Employees?

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We hear a lot about disengaged employees all the time, and how they are a serious business liability. However, we rarely hear about the reasons why disengaged personnel exist, and why they continue to be a major problem among all types of companies. So in order to rectify this problem, it’s important to not only look at the possible solutions, but also at what causes them to happen in the first place. Understanding the reasons why employee disengagement exists will allow managers and business owners to find more practical and feasible solutions for this serious problem among their personnel. Furthermore, understanding the causes of disengagement can help them formulate policies which can help boost employee loyalty and productivity. So if you are having similar problems among your own employees, here’s some information to help you better understand the problem, and what you can do about it. Where Does The Problem Start?  According to a recent study conducted by Dale Carnegie Training, only about 29% of employees in most companies are “fully engaged,” while 26% could be considered as “disengaged.” In other words, around three-quarters of all employees in most companies today are not fully engaged. According to the study, the biggest factor which influences employee engagement/disengagement was personnel “relationship with immediate supervisor.” Therefore, the actions of managers could be considered as either among the most important, if not most important, factor affecting the rate of employee disengagement within any particular company. But what is it exactly about manager-employee relationships that causes them to have such a big impact over employee engagement and disengagement? More importantly, why is this problem so persistent? Even without the latest research data, it’s no secret among industry leader that managerial competence plays an important role in reducing the rate of employee disengagement in a given company. So why is this problem so persistent? Well, one of the main reasons is that the criteria that most companies use in selecting managers and executives do not always coincide with their employee engagement goals. The truth is that different managers have different strengths and weaknesses. Some, for example, are more result oriented, while others tend to focus more on improving workplace productivity. Only a few managers actually care about employee engagement, and only if it’s importance is made clear to them. Another reason why manager-employee relationships contribute to employee disengagement is that it’s a long term process, and most managers tend to concern themselves with more immediate problems and objectives. The point here is that employee engagement does always translate to immediate solutions or improved productivity, which is why it’s often ignored in favor of short term concerns. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that conventional managerial values are often associated with forcefulness, decisiveness and the ability to exert authority. Although it’s true that some managers can moderate these kinds of behavior with a certain degree of self-awareness, it’s also important to remember that traditional managerial methods make most personnel more hesitant to cooperate with employee engagement initiatives. To put it another way, people chafe under excessive control, and this is a contributing factor to employee disengagement. What’s The Best Way to Deal With Disengaged Employees?  Since manager-employee relationships are often the source of employee disengagement, it follows that they should also be the focus of any solutions. For starters, promoting a positive manager-employee relationship can help to create the foundations for long term employee engagement policies. Employees who have stronger relationships with their superiors and colleagues are more likely to respond well to such policies, which would further promote employee engagement. Furthermore, managers must be made to understand the importance of employee engagement, especially in regards to how they relate to the company’s long term goals and interests. To this end, managers should be given incentives to actively engage those who they have to supervise. This way, employee engagement becomes actual policy instead of being just another optional activity that they can do whenever they feel like it. Finally, managers need to have “soft” skills in order to compliment their “hard” skills, which are usually only concerned with increasing productivity. Here are several good examples of such “soft” skills: Being Good Listeners – Listening to what employees have to say not only helps to improve management practices, it also helps foster a more open environment conducive for employee engagement. Good Perception – Being perceptive will allow managers to better understand the concerns and anxieties of their employees as well as address core issues behind most problems. Open Communication – Open communication is an important part of employee engagement and employee-manager relations. Managers who have good communication skills and policies are also more likely to convince their personnel to comply with policies related to employee engagement. Having A Calm Demeanor – Calm managers are easier to trust than those who have the reputation of panicking during difficult situations. Being Trustworthy – Finally, it’s worth mentioning disengaged employees are less trusting of their superiors and colleagues, which is why effective managers should try to work on earning the trust of those who work under them, especially with regards to important company policies. There are many other ways to deal with disengaged employees, but such measures should also be considered in the context of the work environment on which they will be implemented. Employee engagement is, after all, a long term project, and it is important for managers who are tasked with such policies to be given enough leeway to implement engagement practices in a way that works best on his or her personnel. Conclusion  According to the Bureau of National Affairs, U.S. businesses lose around $11 billion annually due to employee turnover. A significant portion of this turnover is the result of having too many disengaged employees, which basically means that businesses can save a tremendous amount of money if they can prevent this problem from happening to their own company. However, policies and other initiatives are not enough to solve. The key to solving this problem is through one’s own personnel, which is why manager-employee relations are so important. So the next time you think about your disengaged employees, always remember that the solution starts with people.
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog