Disengaged? Bringing Employees Back On-Side

It would be fair, in my opinion at least, to assume that everyone has experienced customer service from both ends of the continuum. I sometimes wonder why the probability of encountering bad customer service far outweighs the chances of having a positive experience -a truth which I find quite ironic.

One would expect, especially in the light of the numerous options available, that service delivery would be impeccable -creating a possible indecision in the minds of customers on how to distribute patronage across favourites. Alas, the reverse seems to be predominant. Sales reps still prefer to opt for the more laid-back, impolite and very damaging front.

In like manner, a quick scan of the workplace reveals an ever-widening gap between employees who are ready to go the extra mile, promote the brand and sometimes take-on tasks outside their regular contracts and those who wouldn’t. Those who would voluntarily assist colleagues in resolving a work-related problem while ensuring at all times that they remain on the fine lines of compliance are also at the risk of extinction (see Podsakoff et al., 2000).

Nowadays, what you’ll find commonplace are individuals taking up employment for the sole purpose of meeting their respective needs with little thought given to the possibility of contributing fully to organizational growth or sustainability.

Photo: courtesy of www.slideshare.net

Photo: courtesy of http://www.slideshare.net

Perhaps the average Nigerian is having a hard time coping effectively with the myriad of pressures coming at them from different directions. Perhaps, the consequences of these poorly managed pressures tend to be brought to bear at the workplace in the form of poor work attitudes. Perhaps, these employees are unable to see themselves as being integral to the success of the whole.

With the preceding arguments in mind, I prefer to diagnose the existence of more disengaged employees in the system than is required for optimum performance. The absence of a positive connection between the employee and the organization, I believe, is at the heart of poor customer service delivery and a detached work attitude.

Disengaged employees are those who lack the necessary zeal to contribute beyond the basic responsibilities detailed in their respective individual contracts. They come to work largely to make up the numbers. They usually will not speak well of their employers or invest more effort than is necessary to ensure targets are met. In extreme cases, these employees are responsible for stalling the contributions of other employees. Organizations risk their goodwill, their profit margin and their continued existence to this challenge if left unresolved.

photo: courtesy of blog.tnsemployeeinsights.com

photo: courtesy of blog.tnsemployeeinsights.com

The remedy for the incidences that plague service delivery and customer loyalty aren’t far-fetched. Rather than a quick fix, a more sustainable approach should apply.

For the employer:
There’s a need to consciously inspire positive emotions towards work in the minds of employees. Although tasking, it would certainly be a more tenable alternative.

It will require deliberate efforts aimed at creating fresh experiences for employees or improving existing systems/policies that have helped to shape previous experiences. Fully engaging employees would be a great place to start.

In addition to the above, employers may design surveys specifically to measure engagement levels within the organization. The surveys should be built to solicit information ranging from the reasons for discontentment as well as factors or tools that could help minimize the occurrence of  such emotions. Questionnaires may also include confidentiality and anonymity options to boost employee response levels.

For the employee:
A paradigm shift is required. That is, the ability to see beyond one’s immediate needs towards achieving a mutually beneficial objective.

Sooner rather than later, employees who keep at making a meaningful contribution will realize that the joy found in the fulfilment of one’s work and the recognition gained from being synonymous with efficiency will certainly make any job worth the while.


Podsakoff, P. et al (2000) Organizational Citenzenship Behaviours: A Critical Review of the Theoretical and Emperical Literature and Suggestions for Future research. Journal of Management. (26) 3. p.513-565.


6 thoughts on “Disengaged? Bringing Employees Back On-Side

  1. I think I’m a disengaged employee. I’m not sure maybe I just need a holiday. What’s the difference ? Lol

    Very well written.

    • Knowing you and the organization you work for, I will have to agree that you aren’t engaged. No fault of yours though. While a vacation will provide temporary relief, I doubt if it will solve anything in the long term. What is needed is for your organization to prioritize a tension-free work environment. Adequate recognition for a job well done and constructive feedback, I believe, will also help you feel a lot better than you presently do. Talk to your line manager about your concerns and how you believe it will enable you do much more at work. Let him/her know you feel demotivated and largely underutilized. Bosses are usually open to any idea that translates into an increased bottom-line.

  2. Are you sure letting her boss know she is demotivated and underutilized would translate to any meaningful conclusion. I would it would lead to harsh comments and revenge during performance review?

    • Thank you Kemi for that valuable input.

      Now, that’s another angle to view this from… In an ideal setting, this shouldn’t result in victimization. However this is just a fraction of the challenges faced by HR in managing both line managers and staff in general. what HR may do is to promote a culture of openness, to encourage employees to come in freely to table their concerns while providing some element of anonymity for sensitive cases. On the other hand, managers should be sent on training when observed to be lacking in basic employee relations skills. In the event that managers still refuse to promote a positive work environment, I suggest a zero-tolerance and sanctions applied.

  3. ‘Engagement’ is a funny thing. It’s dynamic. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ remedy for all staff. The number of ways of ways to get employees ‘engaged’ can vary as much as the number of employees themselves. However, quick wins could be:
    1. Placement – match employee interest & capabilities to function (as much as reasonably possible);
    2. Minimize the mundane nature of certain jobs. Malcolm Gladwell said in Outliers that for work to be meaningful 3 things must exist, for me the two most important are – a relationship must exist between effort & reward and that the work must be ‘complex’ enough.
    3. Organizational policies to prevent victimization like u said above.

    If employees feel mentally challenged, if the organization promotes a healthy air and relationships amongst staff, and if work is adequately/reasonably matched with reward, i think MOST (can’t ever be all) employees would be happy with their jobs…

    • Rightly stated. Placement, Complexity and Organizational Policies are key. Impressions formed right from the initial contact a candidate has with the organization sometimes makes all the difference. It is for the same reason some employees come on board already dis-engaged. Ensuring a right fit while putting into consideration, interests, strengths and expectations (of employees regarding the job function, pay etc…) are all equally important and capable of setting on track organizations who desire to boost its EE capabilities

      Thank you for the unique perspective. A very valuable contribution as always.

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