A Gallup survey shows 45% of SA employees actively disengaged – we need to release that captured energy and enterprise into productive engagement.
There is an elephant in the room that we need to recognise – it’s called active disengagement. This growing global phenomenon remains largely hidden, especially because of the lack of ‘meaning’ in the workplace.
The Gallup survey referred to above found that in South Africa only 9% of the workplace are engaged, 46% are not engaged, and a disturbing 45% are actively disengaged. It’s a no-brainer that an engaged and creative workforce is a prerequisite for company success.
This result points to a simple fact – in SA it’s no longer business as usual. We need to examine the worrying phenomenon of active disengagement from a corporate and systemic perspective. And we need to identify ways of debugging the workforce mindset – call that the corporate software – of this pernicious virus. In order to identify the dynamics of non-engagement, and especially active disengagement, we need a better understanding what real healthy employee engagement is all about. And then we will be in a better position to identify the symptoms.
Simply put; employee engagement is about a motivated workforce. Employee engagement is characterised by four general qualities of experience:
- Gratitude for the opportunity of having a job – appreciating the value they bring
- Having positive future expectations – looking forward to advancing their careers
- Having a sense of self-confidence – appreciating their own skills and competencies
- Enjoying good relations with their colleagues – looking forward to coming to work
Non-engagement, by contrast, refers to employees who are indeed present on the job, but don’t demonstrate the required focus of wanting to get the job done well. The core issue here is low motivation, and it’s often accompanied by low morale. One essential symptom is high levels of absenteeism, especially by those taking unverified sick-leave. But there is a further a phenomenon; described as ‘presenteeism’. This, in turn, has two definitions:
First, where employees are indeed genuinely unwell, but are reluctant to take sick leave, often being motivated by insecurity. Clearly being physically unwell will undermine their capacity to focus and perform.
Second, and more insidious, is the definition of presenteeism as being present without being committed to the task. Symptoms of presenteeism can include:
- Time-wasting – taking extended breaks – arriving late – leaving early
- Clock watching
- Sloppy work
- Missing deadlines
To any manager the negative impact on corporate productivity will be obvious.
Active disengagement however, differs from non-engagement. This refers to employees who, by their very presence, have the effect of undermining their colleagues, and hence company performance. The most obvious symptom is collective strike action. Fortunately the fact that strike action is obvious means the action is visible and hence manageable. The more invisible expression of active disengagement ranges from mildly undermining company performance to severe disruption. This can include:
- Bad-mouthing the organisation
- Criticism of colleagues and management
- Deliberate disruption of performance
- Blatant sabotage
Just as we have identified the emotional drivers of engagement, so too we need to identify the drivers of non-engagement and active disengagement. When we are able to redefine ‘emotions’ as ‘energy seeking purpose’, then we can identify generative strategies to release and redirect that trapped energy. We will further explore how to do this next week.
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