The Disengaged

The Disengaged

CultureCollaboration/TeamworkTips & Tools

Posted on January 8, 2022 by Blake Leath

Recently, a friend shared a story about buying a shake after his workout at the gym from an employee who proved to be idle, whiny, and bored—playing on his phone while a co-worker was literally mopping the floor.

The story reminded me that for those already ‘stirred,’ no external motivation is required, and for those dispositionally inclined to always feel ‘bothered’ or ‘put upon,’ no external motivation is enough.

20 years and billions later, ‘employee engagement’ is as low as it’s ever been and not blame-able on some pandemic, the handiest of scapegoats. One would think—after so much investment and focus on EE for so long—we’d see a high watermark by now, but nope. Why not? Because for far too long, employers have viewed it as THEIR problem to solve (trying to be ‘more engaging’ with too-frequently-extrinsic mouse traps), when the rightminded, sustainable approach is to HIRE GREAT GO-GETTERS, resource/equip/empower them, remove any obstacles (including toxins), then get the hell out of the way and cheer on the magic!

A rising tide raises all boats (and drowns the rest).

"The best way to lose winners is to indulge losers." "If you want something to get done, give it to someone busy!" The doers get it done, zero excuses, come hell or high water. The rest while away their hours, entranced in digital netherworlds amounting to naught.

The problem THEN becomes mitigating two unintended consequences frequently experienced by high-performers: Abandonment and Overwork, because while the squeaky wheel C-players distract 2/3rds of managers’ time and attention (via PIPs and the like) and enjoy less work during it, the go-getters are muled to the brim with loads only they can carry to the top of mountains anyway.

Welcome to the Entitlement Era in which low performers expect something for nothing and giggle on phones whilst others mop the floor.

Colleague Greg Methvin shares a keen insight that seems applicable here, its essence being: “Every hour lost lighting fires under people is better spent stoking those possessing the fire within.”

Year-in and year-out, 5 million diet books and 20 million bibles are sold in the United States, though one would be hard-pressed to find behavioral evidence supporting the fact. Turns out ‘knowing’ rarely equates to ‘doing.’

Newton's First Law of Motion (the Law of Inertia) hammers my final argumentative nail into place here: “An object in motion tends to stay in motion unless an external force acts upon it. Similarly, if the object is at rest, it will remain at rest unless an unbalanced force acts upon it.”

Bad apples are external forces undeserving of the basket, so, to my way of thinking, Phone Boy at the gym is unwittingly BEGGING for an unbalanced force to be acted upon him.

As leaders, we must remember to #BeTheForce in employees' lives, not because doing so is an act of goodwill, but because it is ultimately in everyone's best interests, no matter how yucky the medicine. 

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