“I’ve been in my job for 14 years and today my manager conducted our annual performance review and told me that I had become disengaged from my job…I know that is true.” I met Helen in the coffee shop; not long after her performance review. I had just delivered a workshop to a group of meeting planning professionals on the topic “Why we leave? Why we stay? Uncovering the myths and truths about attraction, engagement & retention”. The timing wasn’t a coincidence. As I listened to Helen tell me about her experience, I appreciated her honesty and at the same time, I thought about her employer’s perspective. Helen was a valuable team member who had lost her original passion for her work. It would be difficult for her company to replace her depth of experience, yet there was little point in management investing time and energy trying to convince her to stay…Or was there?
What are the emotional and financial costs associated with disengagement? Interestingly, recent workplace studies reveal higher productivity gains despite the fact that many organizations have restructured and reduced their workforce. However, a report released by the Corporate Executive Board surveying 30,000 people worldwide, noted that employee perceptions of their workloads being unmanageable rose more than 20 points in last 10 years; from 32% to 55%. Individuals may be adapting to the loss of their co-workers, but the emotional toll cannot be understated.
Savvy managers understand the significance of disengagement and it’s impact on productivity. They recognize the current realities of the workplace and the pressure that comes from expecting their teams to function optimally when they are overworked, overwhelmed and expected to do more with less.They can play a pivotal role in the relationship dynamic by exercising positive communication and inspiring leadership at a time when available resources are being stretched to the limit.
How can organizations pinpoint the reasons for changes in an individual’s attitude and performance on the job? Is it possible for managers to exert any influence when they detect disengagement? Absolutely, although it doesn’t necessarily mean that a heart-to-heart conversation will change the outcome… especially if the team member has decided that that there are other opportunities to pursue. Sometimes, it is simply time to move on. However, it is important to remember that managing people involves more than performing the functional aspects associated with the job. Leadership in today’s volatile workplace climate also necessitates the art of successfully managing the employer/employee relationship by being tuned into behavioural as well as performance change, long before a valued employee such as Helen makes the decision to stay or leave.