All businesses want “engaged” employees — those who are committed to the success of the company and are willing to go the extra mile. But new research shows that those model employees can quickly become disengaged if they feel taken advantage of — and a former model employee can do more harm to a company than one who was never engaged to begin with.
That’s a key finding in a new study conducted by Wayne Hochwarter, the Jim Moran Professor of Business Administration at Florida State University, who surveyed 1,000 people, in both blue- and white-collar jobs to gain a clearer picture of employee engagement, its benefits for the employer, and its possible dangers when not managed well.
“Engaged employees work harder, are more creative and more committed, and they represent an important predictor of company productivity,” he said. “Unquestionably, organizations with engaged workers have weathered recessionary pressures more successfully.
“However, those same organizations have to be sensitive to the fact that even model employees can ‘give up’ if they sense that they’re being asked to do more and more, and with fewer resources, while comparatively little is being asked of their less-engaged colleagues.”
Hochwarter found that engaged employees reported:
The tricky part comes in keeping those employees engaged, he said, noting that those model employees can easily become disengaged if not managed properly.
Hochwarter’s findings illustrate that without needed company support and other resources, those model employees can begin to exhibit a number of undesirable attitudes and behaviors.
“Once-engaged employees who are now disengaged can cause more harm to a company than those who were never engaged,” he warns.
Those model employees will take on more than their fair share, as long as the company provides what is needed to get the job done. Without those additional resources, those formerly model employees begin to exhibit some negative attributes, including:
Hochwarter cited the example of one study participant, who wrote: “I really did my best, worked long hours, contributed something every day…but the more I did, the more resources they took from me and gave to other employees.”
Hochwarter offers some words of advice to managers.
“First, understand that getting employees engaged isn’t like flipping a switch,” he said. “Often, it takes a while for engagement to kick in, but it can be lost in only one incident.
“Second, realize that once-engaged employees who are now disengaged can cause more harm to a company than those who were never engaged.
“Third, getting employees engaged is like planting a tree: If you walk away from it, it’s unlikely to grow. And finally, many leaders feel that managing engaged workers is easier than managing those who are not engaged. This is simply not the reality in most companies.”
Source: Florida State University