March 11, 2019

Know when to exit disengaged employees

disengaged employees

Employees are arguably the single biggest asset and resource any organisation has. Disengaged employees, can be the most massive cost factor which debilitates the organisation.

Sick leave increases by 20% amongst disengaged employees and productivity drops by 26%.  Many other aspects of the organisation such as staff turnover and customer loyalty are also negatively impacted.  

Employees all go through different levels of motivation, passion and morale. They do not always feel enthused about their jobs or their employers.

Managers must be able to identify when an employee is demotivated.   It is important that demotivated employees are repositioned and inspired to play a positive and valuable role in the company.   Disengagement is the state of demotivation an employee experiences which occurs over a protracted period of time.  When an employee is disengaged, whether that employee has been with the organisation for a few months or many years, one must have the boldness to know that it is in the best interests of the employer and the employee to seek to exit that employee from the organisation.   In South Africa, one can only terminate an employee in terms of the SA labour law provisions as well as the ILO Conventions for any of the followign reasons:

  • Misconduct (ie. general naughtiness)
  • Incapacity (ill health and poor performance)
  • Operational Requirements (ie. retrenchment)

The problem faced is that in many instances disengaged employees are clever enough not to misconduct themselves in any overt way and neither do they render themselves incapacitated.  This is why one has to pursue a slightly different route in dealing with these kinds of employees.  We will deal with this in a subsequent blog.

disengaged employees

But how do you identify signs that the employee is disengaged.  Below are some of the signs to look for:

  1. Poor Workplace Attendance:- The employee consistently arrives for work late or makes use of their sick leave benefits on an occasional basis (ie. one and two day sick leave);
  2. Variable Quality of Work:- The employee delivers quality of work which is within the bounds of what a manager would consider satisfying but which is consistently well below his/her level they have delivered in the past.  The employee shows no inclination to improve this quality of work and also no remorsefulness for their somewhat poorer quality;
  3. A general defiant and resistant attitude to management proposals, ideas and suggestions:- Managers must make changes in the workplace and propose new work methods from time to time.  This necessitates that suggestions and ideas will be made and called for.  There may also be other reasons why ideas and suggestions are called for or suggested by managers and leaders.   The disengaged employee will question why things that “ain’t broke need to be fixed” or why they cannot just stick to established ways of doing things and create a general and tacit resistance for any of these kinds of ideas from the managers making it exceedingly difficult and energy-sapping to make the necessary changes in the organisation;
  4. A lack of support for the organisational vision:- Disengaged employees will question the company vision and make statements like “we’ve tried this before and it has not worked”, “this will never work”, “who decided on this vision” and the like.  The disengaged employee discusses his/her misgivings about the vision with other employees and spreads a generalised discontent and disagreement about the vision creating an inertia and toxicity amongst employees.

For these reasons and because of the costly adverse impact disengaged employees can have on the organisation, and after giving a disengaged employee a fair opportunity to show that they can lock into and engage with the organisation, it is better that organisational managers and leaders make the tough decisions and calls to rid themselves of employees like this.  

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