2011 August

The disengagement disaster

Posted by | BE Organised and Productive, People and Performance | No Comments

Disengaged staff member“Their heart’s just not in it.”

Imagine someone that’s clearly just going through the motions in their job – slumped in front of a computer with no obvious desire to be there, no drive, no initiative or creativity. You’re imagining someone that’s disengaged, and clearly not performing to their potential.

And according to a recent Gallup study, the global levels of disengagement are alarmingly high. As reported by Human Capital Magazine, 82% of Australians, 76% of New Zealanders and 72% of United States workers were not fully engaged in their current role. In Singapore and China, that figure rises to an incredible 98%. Moreover, about one fifth of those surveyed were actively disengaged to the extent that they expected to spread their negativity to others.

Lowered productivity

The primary effect of all this is seen in significantly lowered levels of staff productivity. Harter et al. (2003) report a number of studies directly linking individual job satisfaction and individual performance (Iaffaldano & Muchinsky, 1985; Judge, Thoresen, Bono, & Patton, 2001), which certainly rings true. In other words, the more you care, the more you try.

This, in essence, is the disengagement disaster – where a lack of engagement leads to a lack of effort, a lack of effort then leads to a lack of productivity. A lack of productivity soon becomes a lack of profit.

Other implications of disengagement

In fact, the story gets even worse, for there’s much more at stake than just productivity. Consider the following rather harrowing list of other implications of disengagement in the workforce:

  • Disengaged staff show higher levels of absenteeism (not to mention presenteeism)
  • Disengaged staff are less helpful towards their colleagues
  • Disengaged staff are less helpful towards customers
  • Job dissatisfaction can actually lead to depression and anxiety
  • As we’ve discussed in earlier posts, being disengaged actually physically weakens one’s ability to think creatively and problem solve
  • It’s famously hard to retain staff who aren’t engaged with their job, and the costs of staff turnover are huge
  • It’s much harder to recruit quality staff for a disengaging position

And all of the above builds a downwardly spiraling culture of mediocrity, lack of effort and half-halfheartedness. “Their heart’s just not in it…”

The way forward

So what to do? Well, the good news is that there are steps that employers can take towards raising the engagement levels of their staff, beginning with putting time into the relationships between management and workers, and understanding their concerns. And if you’re an employee that’s found yourself in a job that you don’t enjoy, there are some positive steps that you can take too to gain more fulfillment from your position, such as proactive goal setting and developing a sense of purpose in your role.

So stay tuned! We’ll be addressing all of these solutions in detail in future blog posts soon.

References

Harter, J., Schmidt, F., & Keyes, C. (2002). Well-being in the workplace and its relationship to business outcomes: A review of the Gallup Studies. In C. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 205-224). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Iaffaldano, M. T., & Muchinsky, P. M. (1985). Job satisfaction and job performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 97, 251-273.

Judge, T. A., Thoresen, C. J., Bono, J. E., & Patton, G. K. (2001). The job satisfaction-job performance relationship: A qualitative and quantitative review. Psychological BulletinM/rm>, 127, 376-407.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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