For a while now I’ve contemplated the cause and effect, or reasons behind employee disengagement to the point of being performance managed out. At what stage and why does an employee go from being engaged and productive, enthusiastically contributing to the workplace to actively working against it?
In my experience very few employees arrive at an organisation with a negative outlook or intention. Admittedly it happens and I have a whole blog post on that to publish at some point. But in the most part employees begin much like we all did when starting school – you remember; full of awe and wonder and anticipation of the things you will achieve there. Usually you’ve beaten out the competition for the role, it’s something you’ve worked and strived towards. Then you start full of promise and all wide eyed as you take it in and work to understand and grasp the new role and organisation.
From there we go through the usual motions, interacting with workmates, growing and learning until comfortable in the role and the organisation, for most the settling in period to feeling really comfortable is anywhere from three months to a year depending on all the elements involved.
From there assuming all staff are treated equal in terms of opportunities from induction, through training and development, reward and recognition, where do things go wrong? From a company perspective as I say, I assume all staff are treated equal; which leads me to two possible reasons for the change in the employee.
First up, the manager. So often I’ve heard “people leave managers, not companies”. And in many cases I think this is undoubtedly what happens. Many people find themselves in management positions because they were the high achievers in their particular jobs, not because they are good people mangers or have experience in these areas. Many companies promote staff into these positions without the proper training and coaching to really be effective in the position. Like I say they may know the role inside out but do they know people? Can they relate to, work with, develop, coach, inspire, discipline and lead others? Some have natural abilities in these areas, others need to be taught, and they’ll need help along the way. Managers have the power, position and influence to make or break their staff, and this should be used wisely. Personalities should not come in to play and staff should be treated fairly and without bias at all times. Managers should actively engage with their staff and ensure they support, develop and progress them where appropriate. Employees should feel their manager “has their back”; that they can have an open dialogue with their manager, on a regular basis, are encouraged into new opportunities and given chances to grow and work autonomously with support available as required. All of this is to avoid the situation of a staff member either leaving of their own accord or resulting in a performance management situation. Which could result from any number of reasons or situations from disconnect through, difference of opinion or view, lack of communication and more.
The other major reason I see for this sort of situation is the employee themselves. And this opens up a whole host of possibilities also. In the early stages did they take up the help, advice and learning of the induction? From there have they made the most of the training and development opportunities offered? Have they actively sought to grow in the role? Connect with their manager, other staff and departments? Or are they all talk and little action? So often I see and hear of staff complaining about the lack of training or development opportunities, but it’s these same staff that either don’t put their hand up at all for training offered, or when they do, they don’t turn up – or worse turn up and are disruptive and dismissive resulting in a loss of learning for others. So what is the reason for this? And why are they asking for specific training, then when the opportunity arises not taking it? And from there how do they end up in performance management situations? At what point did they switch from the enthusiastic new starter to a wary, actively disengaged employee? Was the culture fit wrong? The employee / manager relationship not the right fit or properly regarded by either party? Whatever the reason, I’m adamant that employees as much, if not more than managers need to take responsibility for their own development and progression. If you can’t motivate yourself, and be responsible for taking your own opportunities and directing the course of your career, where, how or why would you be entitled to think anyone else should do it for you?
I wonder if in either of these two instances they experience regret? I hope not. Regrets are not something I have a lot of time for, being of the mind-set that you should embrace every opportunity, situation, person or otherwise with open arms. Sure there may be times when this doesn’t work out in your favour – but at least you tried, and don’t live with regret. And in either case – the manager or the employee, I’m adamant you drive the results of your efforts. If you are a manager and aren’t being entirely fair, objective, encouraging or otherwise – change it, don’t regret it. Turn the employee, the relationship or situation around now, before it even has the chance to become a regret. If you’re the employee – same advice. Seize the day, take control of your own future; take every training opportunity offered, network, stay focused, be positive – after all you drive you at the end of the day. And I don’t know who said it first – but don’t live, or work with regret.