The discussion among colleagues came up again recently. Why are so many employees disengaged? Where is the enthusiasm, the willingness to go the extra mile?
There is, of course, no one answer to that question. Based on examples shared by participants in some of my workshops, sometimes the answer is pretty obvious.
One participant works as a part-time hostess at a restaurant. She thought she was doing a good job. She took it upon herself to let the kitchen know when a large group came in. She helped the servers by bussing tables. She let the servers know when she’d seated someone in their section instead of letting them find out for themselves next time they walked by.
But when she asked for more shifts, her manager told her that she wasn’t going the extra mile. She told the manager everything she was doing and then asked “What is it that I haven’t been doing?’ He told her she wasn’t taking her turn sweeping the floor at the entrance.
Why did he wait for her to come and ask what she was doing wrong, instead of letting her know that she was forgetting one part of her job? Why didn’t he recognize her for the things she was doing well?
Another person shared that his supervisor was running his little ship with threats and intimidation (my words, not his). The only time a person was called into his office was if something had been done wrong, and instead of dealing with concerns as they arose, the boss created lists. When the list was long enough, the guilty party would be hauled in. There was no discussion as to why errors were being made and how they could be fixed. The meeting was a dressing down and an ultimatum to change or else was given.
With supervisors and managers like these around, the answer to low employee engagement is pretty obvious. But “bad bosses” aren’t always unfair, mean and inconsistent.
Some bosses are nice. They want to help their team as much as possible. But when nice means letting things slide or giving too many chances to improve, the employees who are working hard, to standard or higher, may decide they don’t need to work as hard. When bosses help too much, they take away the opportunity for personal buy-in.
So what are some ways to improve employee engagement?
- Be consistent. Performance standards apply to everyone, all the time, not just some of the people, some of the time. (That includes you!)
- Be a cheerleader. Celebrate successes, both team and individual.
- Provide feedback, both positive and constructive and do it on a timely basis. Immediately is best, but if that is not possible, as close to the time the action took place as possible.
- Don’t have all the answers. Allow your team members to help solve challenges and create plans.
- Be trustworthy. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t make false promises or idle threats.
These are just five suggestions. What do you do to create the culture where employee engagement can flourish?