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Don’t Do This! Four Ways to Frustrate and Disengage Your Employees

Common Pitfalls of Effective Management

Work can be a very frustrating place. According to a recent Hay Group study, one-third to one-half of employees report work conditions that keep them from being as productive as is possible. These employees slowly disengage and limit their work potential due to increased frustration. I believe frustration often comes from managers who practice a poorly defined way of interacting and communicating.

In their book, Enemy of Engagement, Mark Royal and Tom Agnew discuss this idea of employee frustration. Employees can be unable to succeed in a role because of barriers in an organization. These barriers do not allow full use of their skills or talents, and this is costly to an organization in both time and resources. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace found that each disengaged employee costs at least 34% of their salary from lost productivity, chronic tardiness, missed shifts, and disruption to others from spreading negativity.

Project Managers play an important role in creating an environment where employees can either thrive or disengage. When barriers occur are not handled well, work slows down and ultimately projects fail. Here are a four things that managers may fall into practicing that cause employees to lose interest in work and/or disengage. Let’s consider them and also what can be done instead for a better outcome.


 1. Maintaining a Narrow View

Having a narrow view is like wearing blinders. A broader view; however, offers team members the opportunity to become more creative and innovative. A more comprehensive view also opens cultures up to diversity and gives you more options for making a project successful. There are ways to expand a narrow view such as asking for ideas on how to solve problems and looking for other solutions outside of personal experiences and beliefs. The more you include your team in the process, the more loyal and cohesive your organization will become.


2. Reacting to Situations

Reactionary behavior comes from emotion. An event or situation triggers a feeling, and one reacts to the emotion by speaking or acting without taking time to consider the consequences. Managers who subscribe to a fear-based model of management may have reactionary behaviors that keep employees in line, but this behavior does not help foster workplace community, one of the critical elements of an engaged workplace.

Reactionary behavior also limits possible outcomes for challenging situations. Team members, over time, don’t expect reactionary managers to have the best interest of the team in mind. Employees may also become protective or work from a place of scarcity for fear of a poor reaction. In contrast, responding to situations offers you more insight into the situation before deciding on a course of action. Responsive solutions help you make more informed decisions. Responsive solutions also stabilize emotions and help to build trust within a team of employees. Increase responsive behaviors by taking time to deliberate on a situation before speaking and acting. Consider different perspectives and possible outcomes before attempting to deal with an emotionally charged situation. Responding comes from the lens of looking at facts instead of judging people and situations as good or bad or wrong or right. Responding to the situation helps you make a more informed decision and draws people together in ways that work toward a common good.


3. A Broken Way of Communication

Broken communication occurs when managers do not keep the connections between people and situations clear and succinct. These breaks in communication lines produce fractures in the connectivity of people within a project. In turn, fractured connections cause broken communication, and the cycle continues. When you improve the clarity of your communication and keep all active participants informed, everyone works in better harmony with others and your project moves forward with fewer set backs. Clear communication helps project members continually send critical elements of information to all participants, so they are better able to sync their work with other members. The best way to create clear and consistent communication is to keep people informed and organized. Update members to changes on projects. Be up front about the work that needs to be accomplished. Communicate potential challenges before they become a crisis. Also, communicate appreciation for successes of the team to include completed deadlines, personal accomplishments, and work efforts of the entire team. Clear communication helps your employees stay on track in a way that moves a project forward efficiently and effectively.


4. Projecting Unclear Expectations

Unclear expectations create a scattered view of the work to be completed. Team members have difficulty understanding the role and/or the timelines for a project. Working with unclear expectations is like walking through the forest without a path. You know you are in the forest, but you are not sure which way you are supposed to go or how to get to the end. Alternatively, clear expectations increase productivity and smooth process by joining team members together on the clear path for job responsibilities, completion dates, and how the work fits into the complete project. To clarify expectations, a visual representation of each project may help people to stay on the right path. The manager should make sure that team members understand who’s responsible for each part of the project and when their part is due. Value-added for clear expectations is increased productivity, accountability, and improved communication.

Try to avoid these four things that will surely frustrate and disengage your team, and instead, implement in your management approach, a broad view, a responsive attitude, clear communication, and expressions of clear expectations. The way PMs manage can bring people together or fracture the workplace. When you have a well-defined and organized process managing employees, you create stronger connections between people and reduce frustration and disengagement. Your project will be more successful, too!


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Written by Dr. Lynette Reed

Writer, researcher and advisor on human potential for personal and organizational development, Dr. Lynette Reed has mentored people from in businesses, not-for-profits, schools, allied health agencies, chambers of commerce, government and churches. She has taught courses on team building, leadership, ethics, world religion and world cultures. Her current literary contributions include an executive summary paperback titled, Fixing the Problem: Making Changes in How You Deal with Challenges, as well as book contributions, articles, guest radio appearances and a series of children’s books with Abingdon Press. She is also a co-founder and board member of the Institute for Soul-Centered Leadership at Seton Cove. Lynette holds a Doctor of Ministry in Spirituality, Sustainability, and Inter-Religious Dialogue and a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Contact her at expectations2reality@icloud.com.

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