Disengaged, yet hanging on!

imagesI remember having lunch with a gentleman few months back. It was our first meeting.  After a round of pleasantries, 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 unfair 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 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. Employees are paid well for retention, but it may also make someone uncompetitive in the market and force him / her to hang on.

Whatever be the reason, such employees stay on despite their unhappiness and disengagement and create ripples of negatively energy.  Many a times, such employees are hard to pinpoint. Even when identified, they are let off as just being overly negative. However, it’s important not to ignore them as the negative energy generated by their constant grumbling – passive or active – has strong 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 or her to find an opening that will give  happiness. It may sound harsh, but that’s the only win-win situation for both the employee and the organization.

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