The Real Impact of Disengaged Employees

disengaged employee profileMuch has been written about the impact of disengaged employees on your bottom line: lower productivity, lower customer satisfaction, and higher turnover all cause real, measurable losses in profitability. A 2013 Gallup Poll for American Express found that 70% of American workers are disengaged, and an ADP study estimated the real cost of employee disengaged at $2,246 per disengaged employee. The total economic impact of employee engagement in the U.S. easily runs into billions of dollars each year, by one estimate over $400B.

But there is one cost that is never included in these studies. And that’s the cost of the impact of your disengaged employees on your engaged employees.

Think about it. Engaged employees are passionate, creative, energetic. Disengaged employees show up and think of work as an exchange of their time for your dollars. They do just enough to get by, and their lunch and coffee breaks seem to last longer than usual. Of course, they are impacting your engaged employees.

As managers, we love those engaged employees. But our corporate culture is made up of all employees – the engaged and the disengaged. And workplace culture establishes the norms of behavior and the shared values of your organization. And research has consistently shown that companies with strong, positive culture:

  • Consistently produce outstanding results,
  • Attract motivate and retain top talent, and
  • Successfully adapt to changing conditions.

As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Many managers tend to make excuses for disengaged employees: “Of, he’s just an unhappy person.” “That’s just her personality.” “She’s going through something.” In other words, “Engaged employees: Suck It Up!” Tolerating disengagement in the workforce sends the signal that leadership simply does not care.

You must address employee disengagement to improve culture and avoid poisoning your entire workforce with these toxic individuals by following these 2 steps:

  1. The first step is sorting out those whose dissatisfaction can be addressed from those who cannot. Then, help disengaged employees with training, change of responsibilities, improved working conditions, a clearer advancement path, or management change.
  2. And the second step is finding those “actively disengaged” employees who absolutely cannot be rehabilitated and ushering them out of your company.

It won’t be easy and it will take time, but no one ever said that management is easy. None the less, addressing disengagement protects your company culture and ensures that your engaged employees stay engaged, creating satisfied customers and enhancing your bottom line. Employee engagement is a goal that should receive the attention – and intention – of all of your managers and leaders.

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