Everyone’s guilty of a little clock-watching from time to time. Maybe there’s a really exciting episode of your employee’s favourite TV series on in the evening, and they just cannot WAIT to leave the office to watch it. Maybe they’re dreading a scary end-of-day client meeting and simply want 5 o’clock to come around so they can relax. Wishing our work day away can has its place now and again. However, when your employees start counting down the minutes to Friday on a Monday morning, you might want to pay some closer attention.
Noticing employees becoming disinterested can signal potential danger – we know this. Often, being disengaged in their career can be unhealthy for an individual and over time can wear down their workplace wellbeing. And then there’s the flow on effect to colleagues, who can grow frustrated working with someone who doesn’t appear to care about their work. For many close-knit teams, the saying ‘you’re only as strong as your weakest link’ stands true, and a seemingly disinterested employee can jeopardise internal relationships.
When you notice a person growing less invested or interested in their job or the company, it’s time to step in. As a manager, it’s important to do all you can to re-engage that employee, making their workplace wellbeing not just a responsibility, but your priority. You also owe it to the rest of your team to enforce a certain level of input from each member. A great place to start is attempting to understand where their disengagement and disinterest is coming from.
Is it boredom?
Perhaps the person has decided they have little to no interest in the work they are doing. Perhaps they have been doing the same thing for a long time and their workload has taken on a monotonous, menial function to them. Is their work repetitive or slow? Have they outgrown their position, in terms of skill set? Is the work they are doing too easy or too junior for them? Perhaps they are not being challenged enough.
Do they feel overwhelmed?
On the flip side, does the person feel constantly flustered, staring at a never-ending workload they can never get on top of? Do they have too many things on their plate, forcing them to execute projects quickly and not at their preferred standard? Are they constantly stressed, never feeling as though they have accomplished what they need to accomplish? This can result in someone throwing their hands in the air and almost giving up, if they feel there’s no point trying, because it’ll never be enough.
Do they believe they are disposable?
Perhaps the person feels as though they are just a number and that simply anyone could do the job they are doing. Maybe they don’t feel like they are adding any particular value, and that if they were to resign, they wouldn’t be missed at all and could be easily replaced.
Do they feel under appreciated?
If a person feels like they are never truly recognised for their hard work, it’s likely they’ll stop going the extra mile. If someone else continually gets credit for their hard work, or they are never shown that their hard work is appreciated, disengagement might occur. Sometimes managers think they are appreciating their employees, when really they never actually so, and therefore employees wonder if anyone is noticing their dedication at all. If someone feels their efforts are in vein, they may do away with their hunger to succeed.
Are they dealing with other problems?
Sometimes, being disengaged at work has nothing to do with work itself. Sometimes people are burdened by problems stemming from other areas of their personal life. The reason they are disengaged could be due to a fallout with another colleague, or a private matter. If you feel this might be the case, it is always best to seek professional advice.
Attempt to re-engage!
When an employee is disengaged, start with trying to understand them. Listen to them; ask them questions; allow them to explain themselves and make it safe for them to do so. Providing an open and honest line of communication is important for any manager. Let them vent frustrations and be frank with you about why they appear to be uninterested in what they are doing. Show you appreciate them and their work regularly. Show you care for them and support them in achieving their goals. Seek additional help if need be – perhaps tactfully involve HR. Whatever you do, don’t simply dismiss signs of a disengaged employee – it will do no one any good.