The Cascade Effect of Disengaged Managers

Would we ever expect to get orange juice from pressing tomatoes? Of course, this result is absurd…there is a major disconnect between the input and the expected outcome. From a management perspective, it seems like we are sitting on top of a parallel disconnect. Gallup reports that: Only 35% of managers are engaged in their jobs, while 51% are disengaged and 14% are actively disengaged.

Perhaps a reminder on disengagement is in order…The 51% that are disengaged have essentially checked out and care very little about their role, or the company. Perhaps, they are literally just collecting a paycheck, doing the bare minimum to get by. The 14% that are actively disengaged? Well, that is a heavy amplification of disengagement. These folks may be so checked out and so unhappy in their role, that they are actively working like a cancer to tear down the company from the inside. They are seeking other employees to join their disgruntled tribe. Perhaps you have seen a team function BETTER when certain team members are not present, because actively disengaged employees bring the unit down. Managers can be part of that disengaged and actively disengaged tribe as well.

Managers are often tasked with getting engaged employees, but perhaps starting with managers and leadership could be helpful in that pursuit. The Gallup Business Journal Article also noted that employees that are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged that those supervised by actively disengaged managers. Gallup refers to this as the Cascade Effect…employee engagement is directly impacted by their managers’ engagement, and that managers’ engagement level is directly impacted by their managers’ engagement.

Getting the leadership engaged is the starting point to getting employees engaged. This cascade effect in the wrong direction is brutal. Perhaps you have lived through this cycle or are living through it. Many moons ago, I once worked for a company, where the President would frequently come into our Managers meetings, openly voicing (not jokingly) that he didn’t know if he wanted to continue with the business…voicing that he was just going to close the business and become a barista at Starbucks (no disrespect meant to Starbucks baristas). Do you want to take a guess as to the overall engagement level of employees in this company, when frequently, the management was being told that the President was looking at shutting down the operation? It is nearly impossible to get the desired outcome if you start with the wrong inputs.

So if this isn’t concerning enough, there are costs associated with disengaged managers…painstakingly high costs. Gallup estimates that the disengaged group costs the U.S. between $77 and $96 billion annually…
but wait: it gets worse.
When factoring in the actively disengaged group, that estimate jumps to: $319 – $398 billion annually. While these numbers are estimates, we know there are tangible costs at stake here. This is the gorilla in the room, and working to fix this problem is a win-win opportunity for the employees (management or not) and organizations alike.

We can start attacking this bleeding hole in our economy by shifting our focus. The Strengthsfinder helps us to start identifying where natural talent resides in all of us individually. It gives us a lens where we can focus on what is right with us individually and those on our team…opening up the door to building on strengths and managing around weaknesses through the partnerships that are built on teams and across organizations. The results for organizations focused on managing talent through developing strength (laid out in the post: Talent Management – The Strengthsfinder differential) are staggering and based on nearly five decades of research from Gallup.

So…Much like the tomato and orange juice analogy, we cannot expect engaged employees to blossom from disengaged management. Are you personally operating at your best everyday? Is your team operating at their best everyday? Maybe disengagement is rampant around you…I have lived through it in the past, as have many others I know. A solution is available that is not a million dollar solution. Focusing on Talent…what is right with people, will be a starting point for bringing out the best in your managers and can really get your cascade effect going in the right direction. Based on the cascade effects broader results through organizations, can we really afford NOT to have engaged managers? Can you afford NOT to tackle this problem when a solution is within reach?

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Darren Virassammy is Co-Founder and COO of 34 Strong Inc. a leader in Strengthsfinder training and consulting. 34 Strong works with organizations across the United States in developing teams around talent to optimize performance and maximize results. His Top Five are: Achiever, Arranger Relator, Learner, Responsibility. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, or Twitter.

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