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3 Mistakes You Make That Disengage Employees

There’s no doubt, managers have A LOT on their plates, especially in this new era of remote and hybrid work culture.

And employees, many of whom are facing burnout, are quicker to become disengaged.

While employee engagement stems from multiple factors, we can still establish a committed and captivated team, especially if we avoid these three mistakes.

1. All work and no play

The famous line from The Shining "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" comes to my mind!

The point here seems painfully clear.

If your expectation is all hustle and no hilarity, you will wear your employees down.

The most popular topic my clients and I focus on lately is WHY their people are disengaged, and what we can do.

The bottom line is this: we have to start by looking at ourselves before looking at our employees as the problem.

Are you disengaged?

  • Do you feel energized coming in to work on Monday?

  • Do you feel inspired when it comes to issues you face?

  • How much time do you spend thinking about or doing non-work related issues during work?

OK maybe this isn't you. Maybe you’re the opposite?

Maybe you're hyper-engaged?

  • Do you dive right in Monday morning and work like a mad man (or woman)?

  • How many times do you stop, look someone in the eyes, and ask how they are today?

  • Do you even think about how your employees are feeling?

When you’re hyper-engaged, consider the message you send and the energy you create.

When it’s all just hustle and grind, you're missing the opportunity to connect with your employees.

Genuine connection comes from quality time spent getting to know our employees, making them feel like a valued part of the team.

I’m not saying we have to spend several hours in deep conversation with each employee. But we most certainly should be in constant communication with them. And it has to be about more than just deadlines and work-related issues.

Do you know what your employees are excited about? What matters to them?

We don't have to party and play at work, or have a couch and tissues for therapy, but we do need to connect, care, and lighten up — make time to laugh and socialize.

This will enliven the work environment AND remind your employees that you’re human. All humans fare better with a balance of work and play.

When you connect with your people, they feel that you’re open and approachable. It builds trust. It improves productivity.

🎁Bonus — consider people's personalities. If you’ve worked with me on DiSC styles you already have a terrific tool that makes this way more efficient and fun! Think about how you can adapt to their style.

The key thing here is to create a fun, upbeat, and positive experience for employees that balances productivity with play.

2. Placing more value on IQ than on EQ

Sadly, too many managers underestimate the importance of emotional intelligence.

Simply put, emotional intelligence (or EQ) is the awareness and management of our own emotions, as well as others’ emotions. The 5 components of emotional intelligence (as described by Daniel Goleman) are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

EQ alone can make or break your relationships… and possibly your bottom line.

It could be you’re not aware of your own emotions, or you’re not managing them properly…

…or you lack the empathy and awareness of your employees’ emotions, or you’re not helping when your employees are having an emotional moment.

If your employees are disengaged, you’ll need to put your EQ to work and determine why they’ve lost interest. Like Peter Gibbons from Office Space said, “It’s not that I’m lazy; it’s that I just don’t care.”

Empathy helps us read people and situations, adapt accordingly, build trust, and connect more effectively with others.

Do you know which tasks will pose a challenge to certain team members? Can you envision opportunities that will excite other team members? Are you in tune with their repeated frustrations and concerns?

Higher job satisfaction, among other things, is associated with a high EQ1.

Managers say they value their people, but they often don’t show it. (Find out the 9 Practical Reasons Why Managers Need Emotional Intelligence that I shared in a previous blog post.)

So how do you show it?

Make eye contact. Smile. Listen. Ask questions.

That’s a start.

You’ll begin to see how these simple efforts (and your expanding emotional intelligence) plays a major role in keeping employees engaged and performing optimally.

And if you don’t naturally have a high EQ, not to worry! This is a skill that can be learned if you’re willing (check out my blog post Why People Lack Emotional Intelligence for ideas).

3. Being a closed book

I bet I can guess how you’d answer this question:

Would you rather work for someone who is authentic and transparent, or evasive and guarded?

So why do leaders avoid being transparent?

The mistake of being a closed book is often made out of fear of losing respect, credibility, or trust. But actually, the opposite is what manifests.

A leader who is available and authentic earns the trust and respect of their team.

And it’s essential to your bottom line. As Tammy Perkins of Glassdoor wrote, “Trust and transparency are fundamental to business success.”

Employees need to know that you have their back. And that their voice matters.

How do you think that happens?

Open dialogue. Sharing the good and the bad. Being real about the problems you’re facing. Welcoming feedback.

I’m not saying to divulge your most intimate personal struggles, but there is something to be said for vulnerability in leadership — it can actually build trust and grow confidence. Case in point: here are 10 Leaders Who Aren't Afraid To Be Transparent.

A lack of transparency only alienates your people. They feel like you’re hiding something. They don't feel connected to you or the company mission.

Employees who feel like they're not good enough, or that you're too hard to please, will give up and lose interest.

Employee engagement is higher when the workplace culture is about open communication and accountability. Employees feel valued, and transparency in leadership fosters this ideal.

The Golden Rule

The era of boss quips like “Didn’t you get the memo?” are long gone. Or at least no longer tolerated.

It’s been established that about 75% of employees who leave their position are not quitting their job, they are quitting their boss.

Since you’ve read to this point, it’s safe to assume you are not the kind of boss that knowingly makes people want to quit.

But, if you’re anything like me, there’s probably still room for improvement.

Because, let’s be real, interpersonal skills are tricky to master.

In working with some of the best people in leadership positions (CEOs of law firms, CMOs of hospitals, and leaders at all levels) I’ve come to know one thing for certain when it comes to employee management and engagement — we tend to overcomplicate things.

It might be as simple as practicing the Golden Rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. This philosophy pretty much encompasses our empathic essence as humans.

So, I encourage you to remember the single most important step when faced with employee engagement issues — stop and reflect for a moment before looking to place blame.

Ask yourself:

  • How am I balancing work and play?

  • Am I employing my emotional intelligence to better connect, relate, and communicate?

  • Do I model dignity and respect by being open and authentic with my employees?

The truth is your employees deserve the same etiquette that you do. The difference is, as their leader, you have the opportunity - and responsibility - to model that behavior and give them reason to be active and enthusiastic participants at work.

Avoiding the three mistakes I've outlined here could be the key to a more engaged team.


Schedule your free discovery call with me right now if you’re ready to make a shift — in your mindset, in your career, or in your life!

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