A few months back I made a video on the true cost of disengagement where I argued that the real impact of disengagement reaches well beyond statistics and percentages, and as leaders we should focus on how it feels to lead a disengaged team. But do you remember how it feels to be disengaged yourself? If not, let me share some of my own story to remind you.
I've worked some very high pressure consulting gigs during my career, but one really stands out to me. If left me wondering if consulting was still what I wanted to do and even if I wanted to continue my registration as a psychologist. It rocked me to the core.
My part time role was anything but, and my workload was so excruciatingly high that over a period of six months I told three separate managers that I was struggling to keep up. The situation continued to get worse and my work crept so insidiously into my home life that I started to become someone I barely recognised. I worked before my daughter work up, on the bus, on site, again on the commute home and finally once my daughter was asleep. The intense pressure at work combined with a FIFO husband and small child at home became too much. I began thinking very dark thoughts and wanted nothing more than to have a value to release some of the unrelenting pressure. My disengagement rose to peak levels despite my best efforts to appreciate my "part time", "flexible" job. There was no recognition of the human impact of the profit driven expectations that were being piled on me. I was burntout.
Why share such a personal story?
Because just as it feels uncomfortable for a leader to manage a team member that is disengaged, I can almost guarantee that it feels 10 times worse to be that person.
I don't say that to induce guilt, I say that to increase insight. That performance and productivity are the natural outputs of engaged people. Stress, errors and poorer mental health are the outcomes of disengagement.
If we start to embrace people as whole human beings full of potential and challenge and are brave enough to have REAL conversations, we can often get to the bottom of disengagement before it gets to the levels I described earlier. Solutions then flow - either to resolve the underlying issue or to move into another role inside or outside the business.
The morale of the story? Don't run away from disengagement. It will only make it more uncomfortable for you to manage in the long run and MUCH more distressing for the person to live through.
From this experience came the overwhelming thought - "it must get better than this". Through the businesses that I support and the working environment that I am building for my own business, there is a burning desire to engage minds and hearts. To help people connect to something truly meaningful to them.
If this has touched a nerve, please share this with your network. There may be a leader that you know that needs this little reminder or an employee that needs to hear that they're not alone.