March Madness is in full swing here in the office, and it’s safe to say that we are experiencing a slightly higher than normal level of work disengagement. It’s easy to see disengagement among coworkers whose brackets have yet to be busted, but sometimes disengagement isn’t so easy to recognize.
I’m talking about a level of disengagement that, according author and speaker Ruth Ross, causes employees to “smile on the outside while crying on the inside.” In her book Coming Alive: The Journey to Reengage Your Life and Career, Ross offers five valuable insights on recognizing an employee that is disengaging:
- Increased absences or tardiness. Employees who show up on their own time and not as scheduled.
- “I don’t care” attitude. Employees who do what is expected, but don’t put forth the effort to make sure the work product is high-quality.
- Isolating themselves from others. When an employee lays back in meetings and doesn’t participate, avoids hallway discussions and frequently turns down lunch invites from coworkers.
- Lack of creativity or input. Employees who stop being creative or innovative, they stay under the radar and avoid trying new things.
- Lethargy. When an employee’s energy levels drop dramatically for an extended period. They actually seem to slow down while working on tasks.
Supervisors need to recognize when team members are becoming disengaged and know how to help them reengage. Ross has developed ALIVE, a five-step plan premised on initiating a two-way conversation between supervisor and employee to identify what motivates and engages the employee, as well as what is causing the disengagement.
Ask for an informal meeting with the employee to get a feel for how they are doing. The meeting should preferably be somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of the office.
Listen to what the employee says, and what they don’t say. If they are willing to engage they will readily respond and even offer feedback. Disengaged employees tend to respond cautiously and with brief answers.
Identify, based on your discussion, two or three steps you can commit to doing to help the employee reengage. These can be as simple as a new assignment, training on a new skill or a flexible schedule. Don’t commit to doing any steps right away, take a day or two make certain they will help the employee and not place an undue burden on other team members or the company.
Validate, your observations and possible solutions with the employee. This is important to help you demonstrate that you correctly understand what is important to the employee and “demonstrate your commitment to engage” with them.
Execute the plan. This step is crucial. If you commit to doing something you must follow through, to not do so will drive your employee further into disengagement — most likely to the point that they leave the company.
ALIVE is a great way for IT managers to constantly gauge their team’s well-being. Done correctly, it leads to increased employee engagement, increased productivity, an enjoyable work atmosphere, and less turnover among your employees. Remember that there was a reason why a particular team member was hired in the first place. There was something that made you believe they would be a good addition to the team, and it’s always easier to keep a good employee than to replace them.
About the Author — Calvin Harper is an associate editor for GoCertify and a veteran of the publishing industry. Calvin has learned to recognize that another good sign of employee disengagement is when a coworker stops paying attention to basic hygiene and attempts to feast on the brains of the living. He advocates using the ZOMBI method to address the needs of such deeply disengaged individuals.