HR Leads Business

Mar 28, 2016 | Cristina Wildermuth, Ed.D., SPHR

Seven Simple Lessons to Prevent Employee Disengagement

Engagement has become the battle cry of the HR field. Engaged employees tend to beengagement happier, more productive and passionate about their jobs. However, engagement is not limited to the employee. Organizational culture matters, too.

There is a difference between job engagement and organizational engagement. A person can love her job and hate her employer. She can be perfect for what she does — and still do it in the wrong place.

Seven Simple Lessons to Prevent Employee Disengagement

Here is an example: Imagine that you have just hired a
perfect graphic artist, a young woman I’ll call Sally. Innovative and competent, Sally thinks out of the box and consistently creates beautiful, high-quality designs. Moreover, the pieces Sally designs are exactly what your company needs; she knows how to listen to her internal clients, is assertive enough to sell her best ideas and works well with her immediate team.

There is only one problem: Sally is a free-spirited artist. She enjoys expressing herself through her clothes and has several body piercings. The place where she currently works? A serious, suit-wearing, no-nonsense, conservative, family-owned company.

The HR manager is quick to point out to Sally that there is a dress code. Further, the manager asks Sally to remove her piercings and to please not speak that loud. And, oh, Sally, we frown upon speaking up out of order during our meetings. Make sure you wait for your turn. And that fabulous piece you’ve just created? Well … it is fabulous, but you really need to get the manager’s permission to present it before you show it to anyone else.

Within a few months, Sally starts to feel despondent and discouraged. Gone are the days when she couldn't wait for Monday morning. She begins to drag. Here is the curious part, though: Not many people can tell how upset Sally really is — not yet. Sally’s work, you see, is still so darn good. She still goes above and beyond the call of duty. She still stays in her cubicle until the wee hours finishing something she’s excited about. There can’t possibly be any problem with Sally. Less than a year after Sally came onboard, however, she presents her letter of resignation. Good-bye, Sally.

Sally has become disengaged. 

In Seven Simple Lessons to Prevent Employee Disengagement, I detail seven lessons that all employers should read to prevent employee disengagement. It is easier than you think to disengage people who start out engaged and enthusiastic. Most times we are not even aware that what we are doing is actively disengaging employees.

By understanding disengagement, you can win the battle for a more productive and engaged employees.

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Cris Wildermuth, Ed.D., SPHR, is an assistant professor at Drake University.