why your employees are “just not that into you”

By david lee
Engagement

*2016 SHRM Presenter

If you’re like the majority of employers throughout the world, achieving high employee engagement seems as elusive as finding a Yeti. Despite the employee engagement industry being a billion plus dollar a year industry, employee engagement levels have barely budged since Gallup first published their research.

In Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, they noted this unfortunate reality:

While the state of the U.S. economy has changed substantially since 2000, the state of the American workplace has not. Currently, 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2-to-1.

In this article, we’ll examine three principles of human nature at work that influence why employees are “just not that into” their employer or their manager.

When employees are “just not that into” their employer, it’s often because they don’t experience their employer as being interested in them as human beings, or interested in their wellbeing. When you reflect on your own experiences as an employee, you can undoubtedly recall managers and employers who clearly didn’t care about you as a human being, and who merely saw you as a means to an end. You were no different than a piece of software or a machine. You produced an output. Compare how committed you felt to that manager and that employer with how passionate, loyal, and willing to go above and beyond you were when working for a manager and employer who they truly cared about you and your wellbeing.

Showing sincere interest in who your employees are as individuals, in their well-being, in their professional development, and how your decisions and actions affect them is critical if you want them to be interested in you and your goals.

When we are careless in our treatment of others, we teach them to care less about us. Our treatment of others tells them what we think of them and how much we value them. If we don’t bother to return emails and phone messages, if we don’t bother to express gratitude for their acts of thoughtfulness or interest, if we frequently break our commitments to them, we teach them to lose interest in us. We teach them to put their energy in places where it is more graciously received, where it is appreciated.

Careless treatment of others also includes being undisciplined in how we treat others when we are in a bad mood or under stress. Do we speak sharply when we’re stressed out? Do we speak harshly and speak down to people when we’re harried? Are we “hot and cold” in our interactions depending on the day?

When employees have to develop a thick emotional skin to avoid repeatedly feeling disappointed, frustrated, demeaned, or disrespected, they become emotionally numb. Doing this also shuts off the positive feelings of passion, joy, determination, and compassion that fuel engagement and performance. The result: employees who walk around like extras on Dawn of the Dead, lifelessly trudging through the work day and “working for the weekend.”

We continue to experience rampant employee disengagement because we insist on searching for magic bullets and the latest flavor of the month management fad, rather than do the hard work of building relationships and having the important conversations.

No trendy perk or gala event will offset a daily work experience where employees continually feel management doesn’t care about them, continually feel like their ability to do great work is being thwarted, their hard work is unappreciated, and they are treated like small children.

The answers to solving the problems of low employee engagement lie in relationships and the important conversations that make relationships work. Consider this statement: “Every better business result you want requires better relationships.”  Whether it’s boosting employee engagement, increasing sales or improving the client experience you deliver, getting better results in these areas requires dealing with people. It requires getting the best out of people.

To do that requires engaging them in productive conversations, gaining an understanding of their perspectives, needs, and wants. It requires empathy and presence. Getting these better results is not about doing things “to” the other person, it’s about have a genuine human-to-human conversation that generates positive solutions. Most of the answers to “How come our employees are just not that into us?”  and “What do we need to do to boost engagement?” reside in your employees and can only be accessed through candid, in-depth, one-on-one conversations.

Such conversations don’t just provide managers with the information they need to address each employee’s unique “engagement recipe,” they also communicate:

  • “I care about you as a person and your well-being”
  • “I care about my effect on you”
  • “I want the best for you”

…all important messages to human beings at work.

So as you work with your leadership team on how to solve the “Why aren’t our employees into us?” problem and strategize how to boost employee engagement, keep these principles in mind, and…engage your employees in the conversations that will get you the answers you need.

Join us for David’s 2016 SHRM presentation, “Why Your Employees are Just Not that Into You,” on June 20!

Categories: Engagement

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By david lee

David Lee is the founder and principal of HumanNature@Work and a recognized thought leader in the areas of employee engagement, talent management, leadership, and courageous conversations in the workplace. He is the author of nearly 100 articles and book chapters on these topics, and has worked with organizations and presented at conferences, throughout North America and Australia. He will be presenting "Why Your Employees Are Just Not That Into You…and What to Do About It" and "Why Your Employee Engagement Survey Isn’t Cutting It" at the 2016 SHRM Conference in Washington, DC this June.