The number of disengaged or downright unhappy employees are staggering. Here’s how good leaders can turn those numbers around.
Despite the emphasis on employee engagement on everything from innovation to customer service, people just don’t like their jobs. A 2013 Gallup report found that around 70% of workers are not engaged in their jobs. A November 2013 survey from Monster.com and research firm GfK found that 15% of U.S. workers dislike or hate their jobs.
Leaders, we have some problems, according to some experts. Like any good plan to turn around a bad situation, the first step is awareness. Here are four of the most common reasons employees despise their 9-to-5 gigs—and what business leaders can do to solve it.
1. THIS JOB IS POINTLESS
If your employees don’t understand why their jobs are important, chances are they’re among the ranks of the disenchanted, says consultant Lisa Earle McLeod, author of Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work that Makes You Proud. She developed the concept of “noble purpose,” and she says it applies to everyone in the company. It’s not enough to go to work every day in exchange for a paycheck.
Solution: You need to communicate and reinforce employees’ roles in delivering something that matters. That’s going to make a difference in job satisfaction, even if there are parts of doing the job that they don’t like, she says. Talk to them about the company’s core values, and how each role fits into the overall vision to make a difference. Having “that lens of ‘noble purpose’ on your work helps you pick and choose the things to focus on,” she says.
2. MY BOSS IS TERRIBLE
U.K. online staffing firm Staffbay’s December 2013 survey found that a whopping 87% of employees don’t trust the people they work for. Executive coach Kathi Elster, coauthor of Working With You Is Killing Me: Freeing Yourself from Emotional Traps at Work, says that when managers don’t give proper direction or worse—micromanage—trust is damaged and employees become resentful.
Solution: Nothing will get you the title “bad boss” faster than taking credit for someone else’s ideas or work, Elster says. Strike a balance between supervising employees, and giving them enough room to do their jobs, she advises. Finally, from market changes to the demands of growth, you have to help employees understand and be comfortable with change, which can be one of the toughest parts of any job, she says. Invest in management training, especially for those new to supervising others.
3. I HAVE NO LIFE
Some workplaces are rigid, and make employees feel like they’re being admonished for taking a sick day or vacation. Others are always on, leaving employees to drown in a sea of texts, email messages, voicemail, and instant messaging. Elster warns if employees don’t have the freedom to manage the day-to-day aspects of their lives, then they’re not going to be happy.
Solution: Set basic expectations about communication, she advises. Just because a message is received after hours doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to have an immediate response. Create support systems for employees, including work-from-home options when possible, and cross-training other employees to take over various roles when others are out of the office.
4. THIS CULTURE IS TOXIC
When you spend eight or more hours a day at a place you hate or with people you loathe, it can be tough to get out of bed in the morning. McLeod says she believes companies that have ingrained values and vision help employees rise above the petty day-to-day grievances. However, you still need to pay attention to issues like office politics and other negative interactions, Elster says.
Solution: Leaders have to regularly check in with employees and find ways to let them communicate their concerns and challenges without fear of retribution. A good way to do this is to have regular “listening sessions,” where they meet with individuals or small groups for 30 minutes periodically to hear thoughts on how to make the atmosphere at the workplace better. If an employee complains about a problem, then press him or her for an idea how to fix it. When you spot bad behavior, such as office bullying, nip it in the bud. Fixing culture is a leadership issue, Elster says. You have to model the behavior you wish to encourage.