What to Do when Employees are Not Your Greatest Asset | DCR Workforce Blog

What to Do when Employees are Not Your Greatest Asset

Is there any major company in America whose chief Human Resources Officer has not said, “Employees are our greatest asset”? It appears that the majority of employees are responding, “Well then, walk the talk.” Gallup has just released a survey, conducted across a target group of over 7200 adults, which says that workplaces make people miserable. At least half of the respondents said they had quit a job just to get away from their manager. Interestingly, bosses do little to help people derive satisfaction from their work, and most of the supervised do not see them as likeable people. Gallup dug a little deeper and found that 65% of managers are not happy with work either, reporting that they are not engaged with what they are doing.

Think back to a day, when you started a new job. Even if you were not quite aware of what awaited you, there may have been a lot of excitement and enthusiasm; if not resolutions on how you would work hard and rock the place. Compare it with a Monday morning, say last week. Do you feel there was a marked difference? For most people, that would be QED!

Unhappy workers cost companies money. There is a direct correlation between unhappiness at work and stress-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, or alcoholism. It Dissatisfaction is directly linked to absenteeism. It is estimated that absenteeism costs the average North American employer $3,600 per hourly employee, and $2,650 per salaried employee, per year. Of equal concern is workers who may come to work, but produce very little by way of what is required. They may also be actively looking for alternative jobs or assignments and biding their time with an employer until they land another job. When an experienced employee quits, a company loses 1 to 2 times the individual’s annual cost-to-company through the cost of finding a replacement and/or lost productivity as the replacement comes up to speed. So, not sparing a thought to how happy your workplace is could prove to be a ‘lose-lose’ proposition for everyone involved.

The problem of worker satisfaction is not specific to permanent employees. With contingent workers, the loss is often tied to disruption related to high unplanned attrition rates..

We have rarely met managers who admit to contributing to low employee morale. Most supervisors and people managers know that their management skills matter and they believe that they generally work hard to support everyone on the team. However, they point to targets and deadlines that fouled up everyone’s best intentions, placing worker satisfaction secondary to accomplishing the work. When workloads increase and deadlines loom, many supervisors resort to a management style based on threats and serious pressure.

When asked what would improve worker enthusiasm for their jobs and employers, changes to the leadership styles of their direct supervisors topped the list. Workers listed the following as signs that they were working for a bad manager:

Ineffective Recognition. The desire for positive feedback, expressed privately and to the worker’s peers, ranked highest in worker priorities. Even when the expected outcome is not achieved, workers want to be acknowledged for their efforts. Receiving a letter signed by “Human Resources” that praises one’s accomplishments and – perhaps – offers an increase in compensation can actually serve as a de-motivator, as it can be interpreted as the manager not being interested enough to directly interact with the worker.

No Personalized, Constructive Feedback: Workers are expected to contribute to the success of their direct supervisor, and to the company. They ask the same in return. If the only time your employees know what you think of their performance is during an annual review, you are doing something very wrong!

Inattentiveness: Many busy managers find little time to meet with their direct reports. When they do, they are checking emails or answering the phone.

Poor Communication: Workers are frustrated by managers who fail to keep them in the loop on issues that directly affect their roles. This is seen as a lack of confidence in the worker.

Inconsistent Direction: Workers struggle with managers who continually change their mind, causing unnecessary rework. Related to this issue is the practice of separately asking more than one person to do the same thing. A study conducted in 2010 indicated that U.S. employees spend 19.2 hours a week worrying about the implications of what a boss says or does. This includes 6.2 hours over the weekend, indicating the impact that a miserable work experience can have on a worker’s personal life.

Unwilling to Listen: Workers do not want to work for someone who is driven by a need to constantly be the smartest person in the room. The manager doesn’t give the employees an opportunity to contribute ideas or shape corporate practices. These individuals are also typically labeled as micro-managers.

Playing the Blame Game: This item is tied to the one above. When problems occur, the manager’s energy is directed at finding a scapegoat. Often, this is accompanied by publicly humiliating the person being blamed.

Unfulfilled Promises: Many workers cited examples in which raises, promotions, and workplace accommodations were promised, but never delivered.

No Boundaries: For all of the discussion about work-life balance, many managers do not hesitate to reach out to workers on evenings, weekends, or vacations. Others wait until Friday evening to request work that is due first thing Monday morning.

It is hard to elicit much out of workers whose only interest in their job is in cashing the paycheck. As a manager, if the thought has ever crossed your mind that your employees are not good enough, its time to look in the mirror. What are you doing to encourage a participative, responsible and customer-oriented work culture? If you are truly committed to improving your managerial skills, participation in a 360-degree review exercise might be a good place to start. In this process, direct feedback on your performance and style is solicited from your subordinates, peers (colleagues), and supervisor(s), as well as a self-evaluation. The surveys are administered by a qualified third-party, responses are anonymous, and consolidated results can form the basis of a personal development plan.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.