What is the challenge with employee disengagement? - Preparing you for the future of work.

What is the challenge with employee disengagement?

Good managers ask the question: “How do I promote employee disengagement?”

There is a significant body of research that reflects the degree of impact that employee disengagement has on the profitability of organisations.

There are three key reasons why leaders and managers promote employee disengagement:

1. They are over-professional too stiff, cold and distant in their interactions with staff
2. In communication, they tend to challenge before they support
3. They try to inspire subordinates before they are trusted

First world culture conditions people to manage others in very specific kinds of unskilful ways and the anxiety created by stress and work pressure exacerbates this unskilfulness. This type of conditioning tends to dismantle employee’s self-esteem promoting disengagement.

People tend to obtain a significant portion of their self-esteem from being valued and supported, and if this doesn't happen, they withdraw from interactions. They lose their spontaneity, creativity and motivation, the hallmarks of low engagement. Loss of productivity is the result.

Organisational cultures that promote over-professional behaviour tend to be cold, distant and uncaring, particularly under pressure, which is where the rubber meets the road. Messages delivered from management to staff in this manner, simply alienate them.

Managers often spend much of their time trying to inspire their staff to be more motivated and engaged; however if trust is not built first, inspiration will fail.

Coupled with this is the communication principle that most people need to be supported in their interactions, before they are challenged. If this concept is understood and practised, great trust can be built, which raises the self-esteem of staff, and engagement is catalysed.

When people don’t know how to deal with their anxiety, their self-esteem crashes. Managers who become more skilled at mastering their own anxiety and raising their self-esteem, are in a better position to manage the self-esteem and hence disengagement of their subordinates.

Gaining mastery over one’s own anxiety is one of the great self-esteem skills. Great questions for any manager to ask themselves are therefore: “How much of the time does the way I treat my people and run my teams, create fear and increase performance anxiety, reducing self-esteem and how does this in turn, promote employee disengagement?”

The solution to this problem and the antidote to employee disengagement involves leaders and managers transforming their own self-esteem. They need to focus on their relationship with their own anxiety, and then communicating with their people in ways that raise self-esteem and engagement levels.

In summary, managers with high self-esteem know how to communicate with employees in ways that build the self-esteem and hence levels of engagement of their staff, raising productivity levels and reducing staff turnover.

Great managers ask the question: “How do I create employee engagement?”

Mark Kahn is a Practicing Clinical Psychologist and Management Consultant.


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