10 common employee engagement problems

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Introduction

As a company, we can create a culture book and amazing employee engagement strategy, we can organize wellbeing trainings for employees. HR leaders can organize integration trips or the possibility of workation in a villa in Greece, give raises, gifts and come up with newer and newer attractions for employees, but nothing will be as important for increasing the involvement and engagement of your employees and their sense of connection with your company as the quality of their cooperation with their manager. The manager is the first person with whom the employee has contact in everyday work, the first person from whom the employee learns all the necessary information about the company, and who manages his work/career development. The manager is the person who gives the best example of the level and quality of work in the company, and sometimes on the other hand the reason for low employee engagement.

Managers have a lot of responsibility. Of course, this responsibility is mainly related to the fact that their department simply has to carry out the tasks. But usually, the manager himself won't do it, and can't handle it alone. And to cope with it, he needs a team of people. And it is known that it’s not just about getting by, but about achieving a lot together. You can achieve a lot only with the right people, but today we will not focus on how to attract them to your company, but we will focus on what not to do so that all your employees treat you as a leader who will lead them consciously and responsibly. If employees feel bad about cooperation with their manager, there is no way for them to cooperate well in the long term. Ultimately, this will affect the quality of their work, the profits of the entire company, and employee satisfaction in general. 

Despite the fact that it seems so obvious, many companies still have a restrictive and dictatorial style of management. I can't do anything about it, but I'm sure it won't do any good for companies like this in the long run. Why? Because the best specialists do not want to work in such companies with bad management and poor leadership. Specialists know that they can earn good money, have job satisfaction, work on innovative projects, and at the same time have a normal working atmosphere. A specialist wants to find a supportive company culture, does something important, and wants to have someone to learn from. If someone joins the team of a weak manager and stays there for a long period of time, you can expect that he is not a highly engaged employee who knows his value and quality of work, and as a result, he will not provide quality work and your company will not develop. The circle is closed. 

Reading the introduction, you probably think that this article will be about the worst and most toxic managers, and you don't understand what it has to do with you. I assume that since you are reading this text, you pay attention to toxic behavior, you know what damage it causes to business and there are no such people in your company. That is why in this article we will focus on the little things that happen to the best managers, and which, however, affect the decrease in employee engagement and motivation. 

What negatively affects your employees? 

Incomplete communication 

You probably make sure that your communication is transparent, and you think that everyone knows everything, but I promise you - it's not true. We often deal with frustrated employees who complain that they do not know something or find out at the very end. It's not always the manager's fault. The manager during the day passes some information to one person, asking him to pass it on to the rest, and this person doesn’t do it or gives incorrect information. And it's not the person's fault, either. You can't expect that person to deliver 1:1 of what you said. Why? This person may understand and perceive the information you have said differently. He may not understand something and not want to admit it, thus he will simply pass it on wrong. An example that perfectly illustrates this is inviting only one person from the department to specific training, e.g. in the new CRM, with the expectations that this person will then train the rest. As you can guess, such an employee after the training may still not know how to operate it, and even more so will not be able to train the others. Another example often found in companies since the popularization of remote work is the problem of transmitting the same messages to remote and office employees. Do you work hybrid? If something is decided in the office, let remote employees know about it as well. If remote workers are discussing something in an online meeting, let the office workers know about it. I have indicated only 2 examples, and both of them are plenty of opportunities for understatements or additional questions from employees. How can all this be dealt with? It’s enough to create one common channel for communication regarding the most important information about the team. Maybe a channel on Slack or MS Teams, maybe a WhatsApp or Telegram group? Maybe a document on Google Drive, or even your weekly newsletter? Think about what will be best for your department and what you can afford in your company, and just implement it. It will make everyone's work easier, and you will only benefit from it. 

Micromanagement 

You're probably thinking now that this article wasn't meant to be about toxic managers. Yes, it's still not about them. Micromanagement isn't just about the worst leaders. Unfortunately, you may not realize that what you do and what is completely normal for you, your team can easily call micromanagement. What might your team be concerned about? The fact that every decision or e-mail has to go through you. That you want to know about all the topics, who does what with whom. That you want and feel the need to be involved in every little thing. The fact that you have expectations for your employees to work only from the office, even though their work 100% does not require it, or that they will report going to the dentist a month before this date. I could list new examples for a long time. As we can read in Vivien Rogerro's blog here:

„Workplace morale is linked with productivity and job performance, so when morale suffers, so does overall work”.

Give your employees more responsibility, independence, and trust. It is known that there will be those who will take advantage of your trust, but if you do not trust the others, the best ones and soon “disengaged employees” will quickly look for a new place of work, where they will be able to focus on their work, and not worrying if their boss will find another reason to check them. 

Lack of basic knowledge 

The opposite of micromanagement is indifference, and the worst is indifference and ignorance forced by the lack of basic knowledge. Knowledge about what your team does, about specific employee experience, about the company's products/success stories, and about the company's processes. If you do not know such basic things, and you are a manager who has been working in the company for some time, you can be sure that you are the manager of this team only in your contract, but someone else is the leader for people. No one will come to you for advice, or help, and no one will even listen to you if you don't know the basics of your team's work. However, remember that you don't have to be an expert in everything. You don't need to know programming to lead a team of programmers. You have other competencies that allow you to lead this team very well. But you have to know the basics, you have to be interested in it, be curious, and ask questions. The more you know, the more likely your team will follow you and listen to you. 

Ego 

The ego can both help and destroy. You can be a cool manager that people love, but your ego can destroy the career and development of the best employees. An employee who develops privately or professionally by increasing his competencies always develops your company. He's working for you. His development always influences his work too. What does this have to do with the ego? It happens that for the safety of their position, managers destroy employees' plans. They do not let them deal with any topics, they do the work for them themselves, they present their ideas as their own, and they do not recommend them for raises or promotions. It is not always related to jealousy or making life difficult. Sometimes just for your own convenience and safety. Example? If my best employee does not move to another department, he will continue to work for me and I will meet our goals. This approach doesn't work. This employee will leave sooner or later. At best, he will continue to work, but his quality of work will decrease. Stop listening to your ego. As we can read at the www.thinkmarketingmagazine.com:

“As a manager, you have to accept the fact that your opinion could be wrong and that one of your team members can be more talented than you in certain fields.”

Let others develop because by doing so you will also develop yourself. Maybe this employee in another department will do something that will bring you new orders from clients and thanks to that you will be able to develop yourself? Maybe some new projects? The ego is powerful, but don't let it work against you. 

Lack of appreciation and reward 

This point is closely related to what you read earlier. If you focus very hard on ensuring that your employees don’t replace you or move to another department, or you just feel that you will do everything best yourself, then there is no way for you to appreciate your employees in any way, reward them and show them that you are grateful for their work? Well... for what? It all depends on you, right? Your employees are not competent enough to make any decisions on their own and their work always requires your supervision? Sounds familiar, right? To be completely honest, your employees are unlikely to agree with you. Your employees are probably feeling demotivated and have less and less desire to do anything. I'm sure they give as much as they can, but they still feel like you don't trust them, you have to test them, and you're taking their jobs. For what they do, they will never hear a simple thank you, and I'm not even talking about some employee rewards. Give them more freedom. Let them take over the responsibility, and at the end, simply thank them for their work. An appreciated employee who feels that his manager trusts him, sees his efforts, and appreciates them, is the most loyal employee and with such an engaged employee you will achieve a lot.

Unequal treatment of employees 

It seems that nowadays, when employers care about diversity and inclusion, they also care about every aspect of the equality of their employees. Unfortunately, that's not true. Companies focus on ensuring the comfort of employees of different cultures and religions, but there is still a situation where, for example, a woman earns less than a man in the same position. Yes, I know, these are things that the manager doesn't always have an influence on. But what can you influence as a team leader? That you accept that one person is regularly late for work or scrolls TikTok at work, and on the other hand, you criticize another person for sitting too long on their lunch break. The fact that you allow someone to have fewer tasks or destroy the atmosphere in the team, and on the other hand give someone else too many tasks, expect overtime. It all seems like little things, but it's actually the things that can destroy a team of even the best and the most engaged employees.

 No pain no gain or “away” status? 

As a manager, you certainly have a lot of tasks and responsibilities, you work hard, you stay up late at night, and you try to be figured out everything so that it is as good as possible. Employees very often do not understand what your position involves. They treat your activities and behaviors as clues as to what you're expectations from them and what they can afford. What do I mean? If you're a manager who starts work at 6 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m. every day, you can expect employees to think they're expected to do the same. If you are a manager who regularly disappears, i.e. you go out somewhere during the day, or you take 3 days of remote work a week and there is no contact with you, employee morale and motivation will drop drastically. I know you probably do because you have to. Because you're working on something important, and you need silence, but the employees don't know about it and think that you're just doing nothing at that time. And what would help in both of these cases? Just communication. Tell the team once in a while what you're doing, what's the priority right now, and maybe set some core hours when the team can contact you. Guessing does not help in cooperation and productivity, and it works both for employees and the manager. 

Feedback 

All managers try to give their employees correct employee feedback. If they don't do it on a regular basis, then at least during the annual performance reviews. Are you doing it right? To prepare constructive feedback, you need to analyze the situation of your employees on an ongoing basis, you need to do analyzes, check whether they are developing, whether they have any barriers, and whether they use their full potential. Having all this, you will be able to prepare reliable feedback for them, which will actually be of value to both parties. Preparing mediocre feedback just for the sake of it will not give you anything. Employees will begin to treat it as something that is of little importance to either their development or the company. And if, by the way, people with the best employee performance are not appreciated for their work in any way in the feedback provided, then you can be sure that in a year there will be no reason to appreciate them at all, and you will notice a high employee turnover rate.

Chaos 

You work creatively, and your employees implement your ideas into life. This is how it should be when you don't focus on the core tasks of your department, and you can focus only on strategic creative stuff. What does this have to do with chaos? Often coming up with new solutions and ideas, we want them to be implemented right now. We add new ideas to the task list of our employees or change their priorities, which forces them to abandon tasks already started. It's normal. It happens everywhere, but the problem is different. It’s your consequence. Does it happen to you that one day you inform an employee that he has to abandon a task to take care of another, and after a week you want to hold him accountable for the first task? Do you know what it does to an employee? Huge frustration and resentment. You can't expect him to be fully engaged in tasks knowing that you're changing tasks for him in a moment and still resent the fact that one of the earlier ones wasn't done. These are not conditions for quality work in such a company culture, so try to process your work and arrange it in such a way that its implementation gives you satisfaction and is organized. 

Sexism 

The worst at the end. Something that should no longer take place in 2023, and is still doing well in many companies with very bad management. As we can read at www.cultivatedculture.com still

“81% of women reported being the victim of a sexist joke at work. And even more, 63% of men felt uneasy when women made comments about their appearance.”

I will not discuss examples that freeze the blood in my veins, because these topics should be dealt with by relevant organizations, but I will talk about examples that are not so obvious and yet can make people associate you with it. Are you familiar with situations where a young woman was not offered a job in the recruitment process, due to the risk that she would soon become pregnant and disappear for a few months? Are you aware of a situation where a man was not hired for the Human Resources department because he would probably not be empathetic enough in interpersonal relations? Do you know of a case where a woman was not selected for a meeting with a client because someone else was afraid that she would not be able to deal with negotiations? Or that a man was chosen to be the manager because he was the only man on the team, even though he didn't feel like it? There are plenty of other examples, but yes... that's sexism. The sexism only hurts more than helps, because due to wrong beliefs, you can lose the chance for an amazing deal negotiated by a tough woman, or for a well-run recruitment process led by a sensitive and empathetic man. Don't lose opportunities over something that doesn't really matter. 

Conclusion

I am convinced that you are a great manager, and you do everything to make your team work well and be happy. However, it is worth doing a summary yourself and checking if you are not making small “manager mistakes” that ultimately destroy all your hard work. The devil is in the details, so it's worth paying attention to. Remember that it is not only about the good of the company, and about profits and success on the market. It's also about you, about your development, maybe some exciting promotion, maybe some new development projects. Working with a team with high employee engagement that respects you and treats you as a leader, you will achieve everything you can imagine.