Watch out for the actively disengaged, but hanging on!

imagesI happened to share lunch with a gentleman couple of months back. I was meeting him for the first time.  After a quick round of introductions, we chatted about this and that. Eventually, our conversation turned towards his work which quickly became a downpour of grievances – how he had slogged for more than a decade in the organization, but never got recognition, how his career stagnated, how biased the performance appraisal and promotion process were. He named few so-called boot-lickers who always managed to get promoted and got away with high bonuses. The conversation became so negative that I was forced to gobble my lunch and quickly get away from him.

Actively disengaged, but hanging onethat’s the gentleman with whom I was destined to lunch with that afternoon. The negative energy created by the conversation stayed on with me for some time till I made efforts to shake it off.

Usually, disengaged employees leave organizations sooner than later. However some albeit very few; tend to stay on. They may stay on due to multiple reasons: locational convenience of the job, fear of change, personal reasons, unconscious awareness that they have reached the pinnacle of their career or even compensation. Yes, compensation! It can be an interesting double edged sword for organizations. Employees are paid well for retention, but the compensation may make him uncompetitive in the market and force him to hang on even when he or she is disengaged

Whatever be the reason, they stay on despite their unhappiness and disengagement and create immensely negatively environment around themselves. Many a times, such employees are hard to pinpoint. Even when identified, they are let off as just being overly negative. It’s hard to recognize them, especially since they may continue to put in hard work. However, it’s important not to ignore them as the negative energy generated by their constant grumbling – passive or active – has immense influence on the productivity of people around them.

On identifying an employee who is actively disengaged but hanging on, it’s important to

  • Have an honest conversation and see if the grievances of the employee are genuine. If genuine, necessary corrective action can be taken.
  • Else, it may be important to ease the employee out and encourage him to find an opening that will give him happiness. It may sound harsh, but that’s the only win-win situation for both the employee and the organization.

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