Although they might still be dragging themselves into the office, a new study suggests many Australian workers have already mentally checked out. Here’s what to do about disengaged employees.
Termed ‘inner resignation’, the symptoms will probably be familiar to human resources professionals: a change in attitude, a drop in productivity, and longer lunch breaks and frequent absences. The two possible reasons for this behaviour aren’t good. Either they are heading out for interviews (bad), or you have disengaged employees (also very bad).
These workplace walking dead are affecting almost half of Australian businesses, according to a survey of 300 chief financial officers and finance directors by recruitment company Robert Half.
The survey found inner resignation tends to be more common in large companies, with 54 per cent saying they have witnesses it, compared to 47 per cent of small and medium businesses.
David Jones, senior managing director Robert Half Asia Pacific, says inner resignation creates problems for both the employee and the employer.
“Employees who have mentally resigned from the company will not be as productive and motivated as when they were first hired, and this will ultimately have a negative effect on a company’s bottom line,” Jones explains.
“It is vital for business leaders to keep staff motivated and engaged in order to maintain workplace morale and productivity. “Jones stresses that, in the case of disengaged employees, prevention is far preferable than cure.
“Once an employee has resigned emotionally, it is often too late to turn the tables. This highlights the need to address motivation concerns before they reach this point,” he says. “For employees, simply accepting inner resignation as part of the job is the worst possible course of action. In such cases, employees need to find out what is causing their dissatisfaction and lack of motivation, and be prepared to address the issue with your manager or take action and move on to a new job.”
Some of the tell-tell signs of a worker who has already mentally resigned are:
- A substantial change in attitude to work or a drop in productivity, which can indicate someone is unhappy or disengaged;
- Longer lunch breaks and frequent absences can signal an employee is heading for interviews;
- Wearing a suit in an otherwise casual office, or similar behaviour changes. It could show an employee is organising catch ups around work hours.
This is far from a new problem for human resources professionals and their organisations. There’s agreement across the board that a minority of employees are strongly engaged in their work. According to Gallup, only about one in four employees in Australia are engaged.
AHRI chairman Peter Wilson AM (FCPHR) previously labelled worker engagement the “continuing Achilles heel of modern organisational life.”
Here are some steps to avoid or address disengaged employees
- Foster a workplace where employees are able to express their views with confidence.
- Provide constructive feedback.
- Take an interest in your employees – and treat workplace complaints seriously.
- Emphasise common goals.
- Improve office culture by creating a positive work environment.
- Ensure salaries are adequate.
- Set personal goals.
- Challenge yourself.
- Speak up if you have concerns.
- Offer suggestions for positive change.
- Let your employer know what motivates you.