Turn Your Disengaged Employees Into a Dedicated Team

Doug Staneart  |  February 21, 2013
last updated

Team building is simply actively listening, respecting employees, and implementing small changes. Often the first instinct when facing a disgruntled or disengaged employee is to show him or her the door. But look around. Is there more than one person who feels disengaged? Hiring and training new employees eats away at your bottom line and creates insecurity for the survivors weakening the whole team.

Why they’re Disengaged

No where to Grow

Team members come in with enthusiasm and zest to do well. Are you encouraging that by providing areas for them to grow and move into? Or are you promoting stagnation? Employee motivation will build and increase with trust and understanding there’s room to improve. People brand new to a company need guidance and pointers as needed. Top talent will seek out other ventures without some bit of recognition in the form of a raise or promotion for their work and effort.

Great work ethic needs to bloom. A positive impact is driven by the communication of leaders. Employee feedback and direction play a crucial role in a company’s team effectiveness.

Disconnected Employees are Disengaged Employees

Do you have more than just department silos? Are employees isolated? Are the company’s goals and vision shared by the team? In order to build high morale, a company has to provide opportunities for employees to socialize and “play.” No one wants to work somewhere they feel like a seat warmer. Staff who don’t feel part of the team won’t be as focused on the end goal or bottom line. Their productivity plummets and efficiency along with it.

As human beings, we all crave connection and social ties. We want that familial tie even if work is just a paycheck. Your team will work harder for you in the long run if they feel connected and cared for. Demonstrating care and clear expectations for your team will go a long way. Staff are more willing to go the extra mile for you, too.

Are they undervalued?

Employee recognition matters. People want to feel like they matter. As a leader, are you giving recognition for hard work? Or expecting people to continue putting forth the same effort? Leadership who demonstrates care and admiration for hard work holds employees accountable in some ways.

I’ve worked in companies and on campuses where I felt my presence mattered. I’ve also been employed by places where I felt like just a number. Providing and recognizing the value of an employee lends to their sense of purpose. When I feel like I matter, my drive toward my goal is towards your goal. Regular recognition of an employee’s work and abilities demonstrates that they mean something.

Everybody feels it- Stress

Stress is like a virus. It spreads faster than a cough. Stress, both intentionally and unintentionally, interrupts the flow of productivity. Team members unknowingly bring in their personal stresses into the workplace. That stress distracts them and lowers dopamine levels. Dopamine in the workplace is a good thing and can boost morale. The same can be said of overloaded workloads and their impact on employees. Too much on a single employee, and consistently, won’t push them to be better. Instead, it can drive them out. That workload creates chronic stress.

Recognizing the Characteristics of Disengaged Employees

In asking those questions, I’m sure you have a few employees who come to mind. Their disengagement goes beyond productivity though. A disengaged employee has quite a few recognizable characteristics you’ll want to address as a leader. Some easy ways to recognize them are in their grumpy, negative attitude and their low morale. What used to be good work worth encouraging is now minimal effort that just gets them by. Their attitude and morale can be contagious and spread throughout the department and company. And not in a good way.

Leadership that does not address or confront an office with low employee morale can foresee other major issues in the future. Like your bottom line and overall office productivity. Team meetings don’t have to be centered on training. Allow some opportunity to discuss issues and provide employees a chance to share new ideas. Some of the best ideas come from discussion and the flow of ideas. A workplace culture centered on the flow of disengagement leads to a high turnover rate and low work morale.

Turn that Disengagement Around

Employee Satisfaction One of the best ways to address disengagement at its root and boost employee morale is to invite those employees in. Open communication as a leader is vital to any company’s success. In this struggling economy building a cohesive team by turning the negatives into positives is the quickest way to a better balance sheet. A great way to build employee engagement back up is by giving them the opportunity to review or critique the office goings on. When staff members feel they have a say in the way the workplace feels and proceeds to them, they feel more connected and that connection creates more engagement. Higher engagement equates to higher employee and job satisfaction.

Take a Best Buy store in Manchester, Connecticut as an example of how teams can be turned around when the manager listens digests what he hears, and implements, rather than reacts in the moment of perceived crisis:

Blue shirts. Great service. Knowledgeable. Perky. A well-executed plan for success. That is the story of store 484, in Manchester Connecticut. It took a new manager, Eric Taverna, with a mission to change the team culture from disengaged employees into a dedicated team. It all started with a Gallup poll. When the results came back Taverna did what every great manager should do:

Listen – actively listen. There is no greater compliment than someone listening to you.
Respect employees’ opinions and give full consideration to their ideas – put out a suggestion box or corkboard that offers anonymity.
Implement change that reflects input from your employees –it shows that you listen, and value their ideas.
In the Best Buy example, one of the most requested changes was that employees close the store together. Their motto is now, “Team Close” which has a double meaning and is a powerful implication for team unity. According to the Gallup Business Journal, that motto has now been broadened to “One store – one team.”

The building block of any company is its employees. How they feel drives motivation and morale. One of the main reasons is that their work drives your bottom line. The importance of employee morale and employee satisfaction makes or breaks that line. When people like where they work, they put forth that same energy into their work. Their desire to be at work aligns with employee retention, too. Creating a healthy work environment aids in those processes and ideas.

Driving it Home

You don’t have to hire a research firm to find out “what’s up?” with your team. Listening, and building your own “team close” can happen with a well-crafted team building session, tailored to your specific needs. When your whole team comes together and learns how teams can and should work, they walk away smiling and feeling empowered. Think about some of your favorite and well-known companies. Consider their focus on the entire team instead of a singular individual. Happy employees are connected and trusted whereas a disconnected employee feels isolated and forgotten.

Building a strong empowered team culture can do a lot more than put smiles on your employees’ faces. It can make your managers smile at rising revenue numbers. It is a well proven fact that engaged employees feel valued, work harder, and give better service to customers. When customers feel well-served, enter a friendly atmosphere, and feel like the person offering the service listened to them, and provided solid answers, they walk away saying, “I’ll tell my friends about this one.” All it takes to do more business is a team that is really a team. Turning your employees into a team may take a little team building that will more than pay for itself.

Colette Johnston is a Corporate Development Manager who works with clients in over 30 major cities including Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and New York. Interested in a Team Building Event?
author Doug Staneart
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Doug Staneart is president of The Leader's Institute ®. He is based in the Dallas, Texas Region. He is a specialist in corporate team building activities and custom presentation skills seminars.
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