Updated: May 25
As a long-time Chief Operating Officer responsible for hundreds of employees, I was always immensely grateful for engaged employees. You know the kind, they drive the entire company forward in ways that are unimaginable. It takes a lot of effort and intention to recruit this top talent and more importantly, retain and develop them.
It also takes a strong culture of setting expectations and coaching for high performance. During our leadership training sessions, we spend a lot of time discussing high-performing, highly engaged employees and how we can lead them. Additionally, we discuss how to coach those employees whose actions make us wonder if we have the right person on our team.
I feel this is an appropriate week to share some common things that disengaged employees do at work that “scare” their bosses, or at least make them wary of investing heavily in them.
If you see yourself doing these things, it’s time to make some quick adjustments to your behavior:
Not enthusiastic about learning. Sure, you’re paid to do your job, but it scares your boss when you don’t understand or know how your role impacts others on the team. Rather than behaving like a zombie, they expect you to be enthusiastic about the company and its strategy and help propel the company forward. To do that, you must be curious and learn as much as you can from your peers, others in the organization, and in the industry. Invest in education a little bit each day.
Ghosting. Worse than delivering bad news is delivering no news at all. When your boss has to wonder… if you are doing the job, if you are going to meet the deadline, if you understand the direction, etc., …then you are causing them unnecessary anxiety. Communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s not okay to go dark.
Making the same mistakes over and over: I haven’t met a leader yet who expects their employees to be perfect. In fact, strong leaders want their people to take risks and stretch beyond their current capacity – knowing that mistakes will be made. The problem comes when the employee is unwilling to learn from the mistake and continues to make the same mistakes. Good employees live by the motto, “I either win or I learn.” Doing neither scares your boss.
Blaming others. There is a big difference between the employee who takes accountability and one who finds any reason at all to blame something or someone else for things not going as planned. It’s no different than, “my dog at my homework”. Great employees find a way to get things done no matter what and they own it when things go awry (and they will).
Creating drama. You can “hit your numbers” consistently, but if you do it while gossiping, treating people with disrespect, and flat out negativity, then you will definitely be kept at arm’s length. Words matter and you can’t take them back. Be sure they are not evil.
Unwilling to change. The world is changing faster than it ever has and it will never be as slow as it is now. Even if you or your company has been successful doing things the same way for years, that doesn’t mean it will continue. Changing is learning and it’s your company’s only competitive advantage. Don’t be a dinosaur.
Finding problems and not solutions. Finding problems takes no skill. Finding problems and their solutions does. Finding solutions to prevent problems is best of all. Don’t be the Eeyore of the office! Be the Superhero.
If you have slipped into any of these behaviors at work, with any luck your boss has pointed out how they affect either your performance or the company. But don’t wait for your boss to correct it, do it yourself. You have complete control over all of these actions and if you turn them around, you will soon find yourself in the “most amazing employee” category.
Butler Street specializes in client and talent development. Highly engaged employees drive highly loyal clients. We can help you create a leadership culture that drives both.