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Apr 4, 2014
This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes readers ask about past TLNT articles. That’s why we republish a Classic TLNT post every Friday.

We’re all leaders in the workplace.

Whether you manage a small, medium, or large staff, or are solely responsible for your own conduct during the work day, you are a leader. Others are watching, learning, and evaluating everything you do and say, whether they report to you or not.

Leadership boils down to the choices you make about treating others and leading by example through your behavior.

Every day, leaders have the chance to step up and make a difference for their colleagues and their organizations, and employees are desperately craving vision, feedback, and guidance. It’s a perfect storm of opportunity and need.

Disengagement when workers are ignored

So why are employee engagement scores at disturbingly low levels and mistrust in leaders at all-time highs? How have we gone horribly off the rails in workplace relationships that should be inherently mutually supportive?

Research from Gallup provides a big clue. Organizations where employees are complimented regularly have disengagement levels of only 1 percent.

No surprises there, nor with the fact that disengagement levels climb to 22 percent in companies where employee criticism is prevalent. What is shocking is that employees who feel frequently ignored by their leaders have disengagement levels of 40 percent — almost twice that of workers who are routinely criticized!

We would rather be criticized than ignored by our managers and leaders.

The conclusion to be drawn here isn’t that you should be more critical of your employees to achieve the many benefits of an engaged workforce. The moral of the story is the devastating impact on individuals and teams when they’re ignored by their managers.

Why do managers feel the need to be so critical, and how are they so overworked that they have no time to spend with their teams? Both causes stem from the same root problems — not getting the right employees into the right roles in the first place and not providing the ongoing guidance to help employees perform more effectively in their jobs.

Only 10% get regular feedback

A survey of employees conducted by Gallup discovered the following:

  • Only one in five employees know their job expectations, and 25 percent are extremely unclear about them;
  • One in three employees feel miscast in their current role;
  • Only 10 percent of employees get regular progress feedback — and half get no feedback at all.

Imagine the productivity gains and additional hours that could be found in your day if you didn’t have to spend so much time addressing and correcting the deficiencies of a bad or miscast hire? What would it mean to engagement scores if you didn’t have to be so critical and could invest those hours into the professional development of your staff?

Management is about being accountable and responsible for leading and guiding your teams to the achievement of their individual objectives and the overall goals of the organization.

Ignoring the problems — or your employees — won’t make the problem go away.

You must act, you must lead. You can’t ignore.

This was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.

This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.