The Real Reason Why Teams Become Disengaged

Every year Gallup produces a study on Employee Engagement and every year it show pretty much the same results. Which are that around 70% of employees are disengaged, some of whom are actively disengaged.

And every year HR departments, CEOs, and senior management respond by looking to implement Employee Engagement Programs.

But why, if so much money is spent on employee engagement, do the numbers remain stuck at the same 30% level year after year after year.

The answer is simple, but it is not one that CEO’s or Senior Managers want to hear. The reality is that employee disengagement is the symptom and not the root cause of the problem.

And as any doctor will tell you, you can try and treat the symptom, but this will not lead to a cure of what truly ails you.

Interestingly Gallup also produces another study that shows that Management Engagement is also very low coming in at just 35%.

It is this that is the real cause, the root cause of employee disengagement. Leadership defines culture, and if the leadership is disengaged why would you be surprised to find your teams and employees disengaged, it’s inevitable. But in the same way that Turkeys wouldn’t vote for thanksgiving, managers are never going to identify themselves as the problem.

There has been a great example of this just recently in sport. Now I don’t know how many of you follow soccer, but if you do and you have seen what has happened at Manchester United over the past month (Dec 2018) you will probably understand exactly what I am talking about.

Jose Mourinho the manager of Manchester, has since start of this seasons, seemed pretty much disengaged. He was unhappy that the board didn’t back him bringing in new players and he cast a gloomy shadow over the whole club.

His negative attitude was reflected by the players, it seeped into their attitude, the tactics and even the spectators became disillusioned.

Results suffered, which will come as no surprise, and questions were asked about who was to blame was it the players whose commitment seemed to have waned or the managers.

The answer to that became clear when Mourinho was fired and he was replaced by a smiling Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. The former Manchester United hero who was excited to be given the opportunity, even on an interim basis.

Not only did the gloom from Mourinho’s time evaporate it was replaced by an air of positivity, excitement and smiles.

This air of positivity was also seen on the pitch with the team not only winning games but winning in style 5-1, 3-1, 4-1 and 2-0.

This is the impact that engaged management has on results and performance. No amount of Employee Engagement programs were going to change Manchester United players attitude, performance and results without a change in management.

Now I am not suggesting that we should fire all the managers of disengaged teams, but we should recognise where the real problem lies, with Management Engagement, and look to address that.