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One (foolish) way to create disengaged employees

One of the biggest de-motivators for employees is when their managers can’t (or won’t) exercise flexibility in the application of rules.   I repeatedly blog on how not realizing this leads to disengaged employees – a video blog just last month, and this real-life example about how a talented employee quit – to list just a couple.  Well, it’s happened again!

disengaged employees

I spoke last week to a senior manager at a client organization who oversees a global group of employees who are located in several countries around the world.  In order to keep the lines of communication flowing, she participates in a weekly meeting that is scheduled to fit the working hours of the majority of the attendees.  Unfortunately though, it means that she needs to be online and on the phone at 5 AM in her local time zone.  Not a problem from her perspective, she’d much rather accommodate her staff’s schedules rather than force a meeting time to fit her needs.  Not a problem that is, except for the directive that she has received from her immediate director.

You see, her immediate director insists that she must be present in the company’s offices in order to participate in the meeting.  Yes, that’s right, she can’t dial and log in from her computer in her home office; she must get dressed, drive to work, and sit at her desk in an almost empty office building in order to “work”.  And to make this happen, she has to juggle other responsibilities on the home front.  His logic: how will people (mainly him) know that she’s working unless they see her?  Yikes!  There is so much wrong with this belief system.

There is so much wrong with this belief system!

First, her manager is assuming that attendance equals productivity.  Somehow, being physically present in office translates into “doing work” that couldn’t be done from another location (such as her home office).  But we know that’s not true: presence does not equal productivity.  Lots of people get great work done outside the office, and we all know the people who are in the office, but clearly not present.

Second, this is a senior manager who is consummate professional with a track record of getting things done.  By insisting that she come in so that everyone can see she is working, what her director is really saying is that doesn’t trust her to do things if she’s not being watched!  For someone who has always been internally-driven, this is a huge slap in the face.  Way to build employee engagement!

Third, is where I started at the beginning of this post.  This director is obviously unable to use his judgement to be flexible with his employees.  With today’s technology, there is absolutely no physical reason his manager can’t participate in her meeting from the comfort of her home office.  But he’s clearly operating from some archaic rule book, and in the process, creating a highly-disengaged employee.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  When you’re not willing to exercise flexibility with your employees, you create an ideal environment for employee disengagement!  It’s certainly happened here.

So what do you think?  Do you agree with me, or do you have a contrary opinion about disengaged employees?  I’d love to hear your perspective.  Add your Comments below.

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