Workplace Stress: Much Ado about Employee Disengagement

Just in the past week alone, I've come across articles in The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun and various other sources that delve into this "new" and much-discussed issue of employee engagement/disengagement.

If you dissected what caused the feelings of disengagement to occur, you might discover an employee who is discouraged, even disheartened.

Disengaged employees may:

  • Be overworked.
  • Feel that they aren't equipped with the right tools or training to adequately perform their jobs.
  • Feel that their efforts go unnoticed.
  • Be part of a team that isn't performing well.
  • Have the perception that the company doesn't care about them.
  • Be struggling with health concerns.
  • Be dealing with family pressures.

By looking at this from health and well-being perspective you might see that your disengaged employees are unable to effectively transform their stress; the strands that previously held them firm are beginning to fray and as a result, they are dropping (out). Disengagement may seem like the only recourse open to them. How else to stave the hurt from putting in all those long hours for little or no recognition, or for doing more with fewer resources and no incentives, or working for a company that doesn't seem to care for them?

Disengaged and disinterested people hurt. Something has occurred that has spoiled their work experience, which leads them to experience stress—a soaking in negative emotions which triggers the stress response, affecting emotional, mental and physical health. Over time, without techniques and tools, stressed out employees begin to lose their enthusiasm for the job. They become tired and look for ways to get through the day with what limited energy they possess. Resilience, that boat that helps to keep them afloat, develops leaks that not only drain off energy, but prevents them from safely navigating through the cold waters of uncertainty.

Their pain can affect the weather patterns at work. Stormy. Grey. Sullen. These may be just some of the faces that are presented to your customers and clients by an employee who has emotionally, mentally or physically checked out, but who still draws a pay cheque.

Disengaged employees are costly to a company. Their robot-like performance hardly speaks to the innovation and flexibility that most employers require in the rapidly changing face of the workplace. If allowed to ferment, negative attitudes can sour the morale of the workforce. Finally, if the employee goes on long-term disability, quits, or has to be dismissed, the hole that is left takes time and money to fill.

How do you reconnect the strands to weave a net that recaptures the heart and imagination of your disengaged employees?

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4 Replies to “Workplace Stress: Much Ado about Employee Disengagement”

  1. One of the first things to look at is your own attitude as a busniness owner/employer. Are you treating the employees as a means to your end. What I mean by this is, are you making it obvious that they mean nothing to you other than a way for you to make money. Or are you treating them as a part of a team where everyone benefits from the long term success of the business. Not just fluffy “we are a team” stuff. Do you really mean it.

    Would you be able to handle all the tasks you have dumped on someone and do all the tasks properly and in a timely fashion?

    Tools and Training
    Are you open to making changes to get the right new tools for the job? Not just because it is the latest greatest tool or training but because it will help your employees do their job better, thus saving you money in the long run because they are working more efficiently.

    Acknowledging Hard Work
    It doesn’t have to be lavish reward. A simple and meaningful “thanks for doing a great job” would work.

    Get to know your employees. Not suggesting everyone becomes your best friend because that makes it hard when you have to make hard decisions or discipline. If you get to know your employees then when there is a change in behaviour you will notice and can approach to problem on a more friendly level than making assumptions as to the cause for the change.

    There is nothing worse than having to go to work day in and day out when you are not happy about what is waiting for you at work after that long commute to get there.

    1. Compassion – a great tool to use on a regular basis and one that will help improve the attitudes at work and elsewhere.

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