How can you re-engage employees who just don’t care anymore?
It’s difficult because at the heart of disengagement is the “I don’t give a $#!+” attitude.
At any given moment, more of your employees are disengaged than those who care. Gallup proves it time and again: Engagement rates have fluctuated between 25% and 36% in the past 10 years.
Most of the time, most of us aren’t all that into work.
You probably know who’s disengaged – or on the brink: Byron’s angry that he didn’t get the raise. Deb’s best friend retired and she wishes she could. Pat thinks policies are unfair. Carla comes in late …. So every manager and supervisor has at least one on staff.
Here are four ways to help re-engage employees who stopped caring.
Keep your money
Throwing money at the engagement issue isn’t a fix (which may be good news to some). In fact, researcher and author of Limitless Laura Gassner Otting found only about 40% of employees feel pay is the most important factor to their job satisfaction.
Instead, employees told Gassner Otting that they crave work that inspires them and connects who they are with what they do.
We understand not every organization is a pillar of philanthropy where employees can see their work positively affect communities and causes every day. Many of us just work for powder metal plants, accounting services and paper suppliers.
But there’s still meaning behind the mundane. That’s why it’s important for managers to help employees understand they work toward something larger than themselves.
Ask employees what brought them to their jobs in the first place – and if that still inspires them. When you understand what matters, you might be able to assign them to work and projects that are meaningful now.
It’s tempting, isn’t it? Someone stops engaging with you, so your natural defense is to stop engaging with him.
In Italian-German-American families like mine, we call it “the silent treatment,” and it’s an artful battle of wills. In the office these days, it’s called Quiet Firing, and It’s also exactly what managers should NOT do.
When you don’t deal directly with employees who are actively disengaged, you send the message that they and/or their work doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, it’s likely a bump in the road that you can get over by re-engaging the employee.
Brooke Vuckovic, a clinical professor of leadership at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, shares a better approach in the schools Business Insider: Initiate the tough conversation. Address head-on their specific behavior and how it impacts the team and the organization.
From there, ask for the disengaged employee’s perspective on the situation and your view. That way, you can work to agree on how to improve the situation.
Recognize the balance
People become disengaged when their balance is off. They grow resentful of work when it demands too much. Likewise, they get stressed when their personal lives demand too much.
The employer that recognizes employees need balance – and works with them to achieve it when it’s possible – leads the engagement dance.
“The War on Talent and Great Resignation are all indicators of what talent wants: flexibility, work-life balance, learning and development opportunities and purpose-driven work,” says Rick Hammell, CEO and founder of Atlas.
Perhaps the most important thing about helping employees find or maintain balance is vigilance. What worked when we stepped out of our pandemic cocoons isn’t quite as effective now. So make work/life balance a regular topic during one-on-ones, asking if it’s in-check and, if not, finding ways to help employees be well while meeting business needs.
“Now is a great time to reassess and rebuild the relationships within your workplace, and ensure the input and output among both employee and employer are equal,” adds Dussault.
Lean in to compassion
Employees stay engaged with – and loyal to – the places that care for them. Try to create a culture of compassion in your workplace or on your team.
And if you’re a stoic person, who leads a nose-grinding crew of employees who might chalk the concept of compassion at work up to fluff, don’t dismiss this. You don’t have to take a course in compassion to make your workplace a nicer place to work.
Research shows employees who work on supportive teams with clear goals are dramatically less stressed.
To add compassion, you don’t have to become anyone you aren’t. According to Dr. Anna Mandeville, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and UK Clinical Director at Koa Health, you can create more compassion in the workplace by:
- listening and being present
- taking time to understand other people’s perspectives
- empathizing with others, and
- doing all you can to remove obstacles and provide resources as needed.