5 ways to kill employee engagement

How to ensure your employees disengage: Equip your workplace with oppressive bosses, toxic employees and work practices that undermine ethics.

We talk a lot about how to increase employee engagement, but what about the things that immediately destroy morale, enthusiasm, and integrity?

Sure, you can create career development for your employees and communicate a company vision, but those will go for naught if any of these toxic workplace elements exist:

1. An oppressive boss

Years ago I was a volunteer.

I was thrilled to do meaningful, challenging work in an organization where I felt connected. I thought nothing could bring me down.

About halfway through my time there, though, I started reporting to a demeaning boss. He questioned every detail of my work, and no matter how much success I achieved or effort I put in, I was never good enough.

I went through the motions, but had lost all passion for the work. My heart and spirit weren’t in it.

Luckily, I got a new boss after a few months, and quickly felt the difference. The new boss created an environment of trust, growth and meaning. I felt engaged again.

2. A toxic co-worker

The “one bad apple” idea.

I once worked closely with a man who never had anything positive to say about our company. You know the type. He constantly complained about processes and politics.

Before working with him, I hadn’t noticed these issues, and I was engaged in my work. As I started thinking more about his perspective, I began to wonder if he was right. I quickly spiraled into disengagement, and no longer felt enthusiasm for work.

3. An unsafe environment

The book “MAGIC: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Employee Engagement” holds an example of an employee in an automobile manufacturing plant who was assaulted in the parking lot on the way to work.

Talk about an instant engagement killer. Safety certainly doesn’t cause engagement, but the lack of it makes engagement impossible.

4. Burnout

The perpetual state of too much to do and too little time.

I once worked with brilliant engineers who started out passionate about their work, but after two years of insufficient resources that caused them to miss deadlines, many burned out. Retention suffered.

5. Compromised ethical concerns

This includes everything from reporting tips as a waitress to accounting at Enron.

I had a job in which I had to create reports that included misleading numbers. I wasn’t responsible for accuracy, but it still didn’t feel right. It was difficult to engage when I often faced ethical dilemmas.

Watch for these toxic elements. Managers must ensure employees have an environment in which they can engage.

Engagement requires equal initiative from employer and employee. A toxic environment won’t allow the employee to bring his or her 50 percent to engagement.

Michelle Checketts works in global employee engagement for DecisionWise. A version of this article originally appeared on the Engagement Magic blog.


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