Third Phase Coaching Ltd

Home / Understand why staff are disengaged and you may be able to do something about it.

Understand why staff are disengaged and you may be able to do something about it.

Organisations are reeling from the human impacts of changes that are being forced on them by technology, globalisation, increased regulation and changing demographics.

And as soon as staff come to terms with changed circumstances, they find their reward is yet more change.

But one outcome of reorganisations, flattening structures and loss of traditional markets is the need to reduce headcount. There aren’t many managers who relish this and it’s common for outsourcing professionals to be brought in to ease the transition for those who are affected.

But that word ‘affected’ presupposes that those who remain will be so relieved to keep their jobs that engagement is a given. Add to that all the costs of downsizing and there is little left over to invest in the ‘lucky’ ones.

Any transition is a difficult time for employees and managers alike. There are professional, personal, social and financial implications and they always result in some or all of the following-

Guilt. Mangers feel guilty that they have had to terminate, transfer or demote colleagues. Workers that stay feel guilty too. There is lowered self-esteem, morale and reduced commitment.
Resentment. There are varying degrees of anger with the organisation that has done this to them. It’s natural, but it needs to be handled sensitively if it is not to generate long term problems.
Anxiety. People see the things they were accustomed to disappear – and they have no confidence in reassurances about the future. That fear makes people reluctant to take risks – and adopting new ways of doing things is a risk. So any change programme can fall at the first hurdle.
Self-absorption. Anxious people focus on their own worries and teamwork, quality work and good service are lost.
Stress. Increases in ill health, accidents, increased discord and disciplinary problems.

In summary, those who survive the cut have ample reasons for feeling just as disengaged as someone that has been told their services are no longer required.

Yet there are organisations which have successfully managed the decline of large manufacturing plants over years while maintaining productivity, retaining key talent and keeping staff relationships positive. So it can be done.

But building engagement and encouraging people that there is a future worth working for is going to take time. And it needs four leadership attributes.

Patience and understanding.

People have a right to feel as they do. Trying to give pep talks and a positive spin, remind them how lucky they are to have a job, reacting with frustration when the same concerns and worries come up day after day can push anybody’s buttons.
But consistent, reliable communication and understanding will be required over many weeks or months.

Prioritise and postpone.

It sometimes seems best to get all the changes over and done within one fell swoop. But to effectively manage change it is necessary to concentrate on the key ones if you are going to be able to monitor, train, tweak and review without the law of unforeseen consequences overwhelming you. You can usually postpone or cancel incidental changes that are unrelated to the major changes you need to make.

Build (or rebuild) trust.

Without trust, change will be half-hearted, slow and insecure. Peoples view of the world has been shaken and they will naturally want to blame someone. To overcome this, it is necessary to-

Be clear about purpose and problems. If people have a clear sense of how they are contributing to the whole they will have a clear purpose and direction. But purpose and direction can be difficult to describe when everything is up in the air. 
The first thing to clarify is what the challenges and problems being faced are. Be open about what you know and what you’re only guessing. Tell people what the worst-case scenario is.
And then involve everyone in agreeing to the way forward. They may have ideas you’ve not considered – and nothing builds commitment like control over your own future.

Research says that survivors of a disaster recover best when three imperatives are observed:

If you’d like to understand more about the subjects touched on in this article or have concerns about the engagement of your existing staff, please contact us