Does your team feel disengaged? Part 1

Why do employees feel disengaged? Experts will list many factors: poor management and direction, the lack of challenging work, poor job fit, or even poor internal communication. These reasons may be caused by different parties: the manager, co-workers, the working environment, or perhaps even the employees themselves. What do these reasons have in common? 

If we dig deep into the underlying reasons, these can all be explained by the self-determination theory. The theory explains how people are motivated—what they need to be intrinsically motivated. People need to feel competent, to have a choice and control over that choice, and to feel that they belong. 

In this three-part series, I explore why employees feel disengaged. I will break them down into three categories: 

Firstly, they don’t feel that they can succeed. 

Secondly, they feel that their potential is wasted. 

Thirdly, they feel isolated.  

For this first video, I explore why employees feel that they don’t have what they need to succeed and what business owners and managers can do to address this need. 

Imagine working in a job where, despite doing your best, you could not deliver expectations. You tried what you could but never have what you need to succeed. How would you feel? 

No one wants to feel incompetent. We all want to feel that our hard work creates valuable results. What happens if we don’t see the results? We feel disengaged.  

Your team feels disengaged because they don’t feel they have what they need to succeed in their work. What would lead them to feel this way? There are four reasons that you may be doing—or in some cases, not doing, which leads them to feel incompetent. 

You have poor management and direction. Does your team know what they need to do? Do they know why they are doing what they do? Do your overall organisation goals align with their individual work goals? If your team finds it difficult to understand how their work contributes to your big goals, then perhaps you need to improve your communication of those goals and directions.  

Sometimes, the problem might not be that they don’t understand goals. Perhaps the problem is that you, as a business owner or manager, keep changing the direction and moving the targets, making it difficult to keep up with your goals and expectations. It’s one thing to move on to a higher goal once the old one has been achieved. It is quite another thing to keep changing them without good reason as it undermines your team’s hard work in achieving the previous goals. 

They lack training and tools to achieve targets. When you change your targets and direction, ensure that your team has the resources and ability to achieve them. Do you provide additional training? Do you equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to do the job? Are these enough? Furthermore, do they have the tools and equipment to perform their job? Does the team have enough labour resources to perform all the required tasks?  

And what you think your team needs may not be what not be what they actually need. I know of a business owner who can do a certain task within a certain timeframe. And then he would expect his employees to do it within the same timeframe. However, what he did not consider was that he was very competent in performing the task, and someone with less experience would require more time to get it done. His expectations and viewpoints on the resources that his team required to get the job done were not an accurate reflection of what his team really needed. If such a viewpoint was subconsciously present in him without the right communication, how can he adequately equip his team to achieve the targets he set out for them? 

They lack career growth. How do members of your team grow in your organisation? Are there growth opportunities? Do they get promoted to higher levels? Are they given more responsibility and compensated accordingly? 

Part of feeling competent is attaining your potential—and that means seeing individual growth that is recognised. The team member may display high levels of competence by achieving team and organisational goals, but are they achieving their personal goals of success and development? Your team should grow with you—that includes their career growth. 

If your team is disengaged for any of these reasons, you need to identify and address the underlying problem of feeling incompetent and having what they need to succeed. According to the self-determination theory, you must address their competence needs. Here are a few things you can do to address that: 

  • Provide clear goals and responsibilities. Define what they need to do and how that aligns with the organisation’s goals. 
  • Provide training, tools, and resources they need to perform their roles and achieve goals. Do they need mentoring? Do they need to earn a certification? Do they need formal training? What equipment or software do they need to perform their tasks sufficiently and efficiently? Does your team need more labour resources? Find out and address these needs so that they can focus on what matters most: achieving goals. 
  • Finally, don’t forget to align your goals with their career and personal goals. Allow them to demonstrate their strengths in a way that benefits both your organisation and the individual. Recognise their efforts and give them room for growth. 

Disengaged employees typically feel that they cannot succeed in whatever they do. Our role as managers and leaders is to provide what they need to succeed. In doing so, we address their need for competence, which allows them to be motivated and engaged in work. How are you addressing your team’s need to feel competent?  

In the next video, I will discuss why your team feels disengaged when they feel their potential is wasted—and what to do about it. 




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