3 Times Employees Becomes Disengaged and What To Do About It

Are organizations managing performance or managing humans?

Lately I’ve been hearing whispers about performance management. In my curiosity, I looked up a definition:

"Performance management: an ongoing process of communication between a supervisor and an employee that occurs throughout the year, in support ofaccomplishing the strategic objectives of the organization.”

That sounds pretty awful, doesn’t it?

Especially, “in support of accomplishing the strategic objections of the organization” part.  What about the people? What about how they feel about their performance? What about their goals?

What if an employee couldn’t care less about the objectives of the organization? Is there a way to make them care a little more? Can they be put into something akin to Billy Blanks’ 9-week Fit Body Bootcamp (which, I still need to attend after the great relationship my grill and I had 4th of July weekend) for business?

I do believe there is a way to make an employee care about the objectives of the organization: Show them you care about their own personal objectives.

What do they want?

Who do they want to become?

What does the human being who shows up to work everyday want to achieve?

In 2015, Deloitte released a study that found Millennials see a great organization as the vehicle which can help them achieve their goals and dreams. Essentially, not every employee (read: human being) dreams of leaving their organization to start the next Uber or Facebook.

This signals a huge shift in how we manage people and their performance. In fact, that shift already happened. What we must to do help employees unleash their real potential and achieve their dreams has completely transformed.

The conversation is no longer about performance management. It’s about performance development.

The era of unleashing the untapped human potential inside of an organization has arrived.

I want to talk more about performance development in the weeks to come, but I think it’s profoundly important to start somewhere else: employee disengagement.

It's rampant in studies and blogs (and here, too): employees are not engaged at work. An average of only 32% say that they are engaged at their current position in the US, and even less globally. How do we help people reach their highest potential — for themselves andthe organization — if they aren’t engaged?

We have to find the root of the problem before we can grow and manage performance. Here are three common reasons your team may be disengaged with their work and what you can do to solve it.

1. Unclear Expectations

This is a tough one to swallow. So many times we feel we’re being crystal clear in communicating expectations. Not only have we been clear, but we’ve  said it so many times our significant other could repeat it. But, nonetheless, studies show that only one in two employees actually know what is expected of them when they go to work every day.

This happens when we communicate in our daily lives, too. Sometimes, we just miss the mark. And when we miss the mark as leaders, our team can struggle to fulfill their roles, becoming frustrated with their work. When frustration sinks in, it can be a hard road to getting back on track.

Other times, we might communicate what we need, but fail to explain how our team can succeed.

What Should I Do?

Ask yourself a few questions:

Do they know the scoreboard and do they know the boundaries?

Do they know what a “win” looks like?

Do they have the context and parameters needed to be successful?

No matter of how many times you’ve already said it, be certain that they answer to all of those questions is a big fat YES.

Imagine it’s basketball but half your players are trying to use the boundaries of baseball. Skill, effort and past experience are useless to them as they painfully fail.

If an employee or human doesn’t know what success looks like and what the boundaries are, they aren’t going to win. If they don’t win, they don’t feel like they are developing their goals and dreams. If they don’t feel that, they don’t care about your goals and targets…you see where this is going?

2. Lack of Meaning

Employees need meaning in their work. Without it, they starve.

When work has meaning, it helps an employee connect their efforts to the mission and achievements of the company. This increases effort and productivity for the organization overall because it’s connected to the employee’s development. According to a massive study done by Deloitte, “More than 70 percent of Millennials expect their employers to focus on societal or mission-driven problems.”

But that’s not the only kind of purpose I’m talking about. Sure, having values that resonate with Millennials is much more important today than ten years ago and we should be mindful of it. The bigger purpose, though, is tied to the employees…you know, the human beingswho show up.

When we can help foster meaningful work it ignites passion. Show them what they are contributing to. Make them a part of your mission. Drive them to achieve something great.

One of my favorite stories I stumbled on while researching purpose and meaning in organizations is about a janitor at NASA during the space race. Some reporters were touring the facilities and saw the janitor in the hallway. Out came the cameras and one reporter asked, “What is your job at NASA?” The janitor, without missing a beat, replied, “It’s my job to help put a man on the moon.”

That is a badass story. I know you’re not NASA. Or Apple. Or Nike. But why should that matter? The situation, plain and simple, is this: purpose drives passion. And passionate employees make big things happen.

What Should I Do?

First, grab my latest book5 Days To Your Best Work Yet. There is something very human about the way we work best and this book will quickly show you how to step into alignment with your best work. This can help unleash creative ways to filling in gaps for employees to achieve peak performance.

Secondly? Ask a human being: What’s your favorite part about what you do daily?

Just like when we were kids and our Mom or Dad would ask us what was your favorite part of school, listen to the answer and try to see it from their point over view.

Harvest that answer. Write it down. Remember it. Ask them how they think they can do more of that thing possibly just maybe they will find a way — even if you don’t see one right away.

3. They don’t feel like they are growing because growth can be random and sporadic

In his book, Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud uses an interesting metaphor to explain why it is fundamental in both business and life to “prune.” If a rosebush is to survive, a gardener must cut off parts of plant when one of three things happens: “1) when the bush produces more buds than it can sustain, 2) in order to remove parts of the bush that are diseased, and 3) to remove dead branches in order to make way for new growth.

You see, when a rosebush is trimmed in the right manner, it flourishes. When the resources are properly allotted to the strong bud, it thrives. It grows. This applies directly to the human beings at your company.

Humans who show up to work, in most cases, are growing. They are learning how to continually balance work with life, kids, new challenges, and whatever else their career might throw their way. But, sometimes, they don’t feel the intentionality. They don’t feellike they are growing.

If left unchecked for too long, they’ll have expended all their time and resources only to have grown marginally in many different directions except the way they want to grow.

As leaders we may be looking at it from a macro viewpoint. We may be seeing their progress in the areas we desire them to grow, but on a micro level, they feel like nothing is happening for them. It feels painful, like all of the efforts are being thrown away, because their finite resources are getting used up in all different ways with nothing to show for it.

We need to help them prune. We need to help direct their time and resources in the most valuable ways for them to achieve their goals and help them be who they wish to be.

What Should I Do?

Think like a gardener. Trim where they pour their efforts and thinking. Once again, give them the boundaries they need to understand where to expend their energy in the best possible way for success.

You’re not being mean by helping them trim their weaknesses. You’re being negligent by not doing it.

If we can trim and help direct even 10% of the work they do into helping them develop what matters most to them, what a difference that would make. How amazing is it to feel the growth you want to feel? There is almost no better feeling as a human than to feel and see growth in an area of effort and desire.

If I could ask you to take one thing away from all of this, it’s that the best organizations succeed because they are leading humans rather than managing them. They foster growth. They give meaning. They set clear expectations.

When the best do this, they are unleashing the human potential of the individual spurring engaged, excited employees who now see that their dreams and goals are connected to that of the organizations….and that is powerful.

Talk soon,


Joshua Schneider