Is Poor Leadership Creating Disengaged Employees in Your Organization?

Is poor leadership the cause of disengaged employees in your workplace? A manager or supervisor directly influences a shocking 70% of an employee’s motivation. According to Gallup, this statistic shows that your leaders have a huge impact on the engagement or disengagement of your employees. Considering 71% of executives say that employee engagement is critical to their company’s success, it goes without saying that you cannot afford to have disengaged employees in your workplace.

At A Better Leader, we believe that the key to employee engagement (and a positive impact on an employers’ bottom line) is having an effective leadership training system in place. While we offer online leadership training that will improve employee retention, employee satisfaction, and create a strong workplace culture. Of course, we recognize that it is not the solution for every employer.

Our belief is that consistent leadership training is a critical piece of any successful organization. We’ve compiled some information surrounding the connection between poor leadership and disengaged employees, and this knowledge can help any employer bridge the gap and start focusing on training their leaders to connect with employees at all levels.

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Signs of Disengaged Employees

While there are many reasons for disengaged employees, not every leader or every workplace knows what signs to look for to be able to combat a lack of engagement. Gallup states that around 18% of actively disengaged employees cost around $500 billion in lost productivity on an annual basis! Clearly, employers and leaders (or managers) alike need to place emphasis on engaging employees! Not only are disengaged employees costing companies in terms of lost productivity, but Forbes shared that a single disengaged employee at the average salary level costs employers almost $16,000 per year.

1. Little productivity, or a drop in work quality

A drop in productivity or a sudden lack of productivity from an employee is one of the most common signs of disengagement. If a previously consistent, hard-working employee is delivering less-than-quality work, frequently missing deadlines, or producing less than usual, this is a cause for concern. It’s important to take the time and effort to reach out to an employee privately, as this behavior change could be a result of their home life, personal struggles, or even a separate issue within their workplace. 

Empathy and appropriate care are necessary when discussing what may be the cause of this changed behavior. Leaders need the soft skills necessary to engage with employees and to connect and communicate with other team members. Often times, it may be as simple as an increase in recognition and appreciation shown to employees.

2. Frequently late or significant increase in absences

Any employee who is often showing up late to work (especially if this is new behavior) or taking multiple days off at a time could be dealing with some issues outside of the office. Employees who are a little late on a regular basis may lack time management skills or be struggling with something else entirely. However, this behavior, combined with a lack of remorse or concern, especially if combined with negative behavior changes, is a telltale sign of a disengaged employee. Engaged employees make work a priority and show up consistently. As Forbes explained, “organizations should look at absenteeism as an opportunity to have a caring dialogue and ask, “What’s going on?” Maybe it is just a cold, or maybe there is something more.”

3. Withdrawal from new opportunities, avoids team participation

If an employee suddenly starts withdrawing from team activities or from opportunities to grow and learn, this could be a sign they are becoming disengaged. Simply opting out of some opportunities does not necessarily mean this employee is actively disengaged. It takes a leader or manager who is paying attention to their team members, actively working on communication skills, and looking for opportunities to further connect with employees to notice when employees’ behavior changes. Additionally, leaders need to be able to act. Simply being aware of disengaged employees will not make an impact on overall workplace culture or employee engagement and retention levels.

Bridging the Gap Between Poor Leadership and Disengaged Employees

A leadership consulting firm found that 57% of employees who left their position in 2019, did so specifically because of issues with their boss or manager. It's important to note “poor leadership” does not necessarily mean managers or leaders who aren’t engaged or trying their best. It does, however, mean that they may simply need additional guidance and support to be able to connect with employees and build a strong culture. We have found that there is a significant link between leadership training and employee engagement. Leaders who embody the values of an organization and are invested in, and advocate for, the success of said organization, are going to be significantly more successful in terms of engaging employees and helping to impact the bottom line positively.

Ultimately, poor leadership can have staggering effects on any business. Between a lack of employee motivation, a drop in productivity due to a lack of recognition or appreciation, and the shocking cost of lost productivity, companies cannot afford to have ineffective leaders. Disengaged employees are only one of the many detrimental consequences of poor leadership.

Leadership training from A Better Leader can be the catalyst your organization needs to achieve increased employee engagement levels, reduced employee retention, and heightened employee experience. We focus on connection, motivation, and behavioral change at a cultural level in order to support your organization and create consistent leadership training that works. 

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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is Director of IRI's Digital Workplace Solutions Group, and the founder of A Better Leader. Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.