The Cascade Effect: With 65% of U.S. Managers Disengaged, Can You Afford Not To Focus On Manager Engagement?

employee engagement

The Cascade Effect: With 65% of U.S. Managers Disengaged, Can You Afford Not To Focus On Manager Engagement?

By: Darren Virassammy

COO, 34 Strong Inc.

Managers are often tasked with getting engaged employees, but perhaps starting with managers and leadership could be helpful in that pursuit. Allow me to explain…We would never expect to get orange juice from pressing tomatoes, right? There is a major disconnect between the input and expected outcome. Gallup reports that: Only 35% of managers are engaged in their jobs, while 51% are disengaged and 14% are actively disengaged. So instead of oranges and tomatoes…our question becomes how do we get engaged employees from disengaged managers?

The Difference Between Disengagement & Active Disengagement:

The 51% that are disengaged have checked out in some capacity, caring very little about their role, or company. They are doing the bare minimum to get by…perhaps just collecting a paycheck. The actively disengaged 14%? Well, active disengagement is like disengagement on steroids. Active disengagement is a large amplifier for disengagement. This group may be so checked out and unhappy in their role that they are actively working like a cancer to tear the organization down from the inside. They are likely seeking other employees to join their disgruntled tribe. Maybe you have even experienced a team function better when certain actively disengaged members are not present. Active Disengagement’s impacts are incredibly toxic and tear down the performance of the organization.

The Cascade Effect:

The Gallup Business Journal also noted that employees that are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged that those supervised by actively disengaged managers. Gallup refers to this as the cascade effect…employee engagement is directly impacted by their managers’ engagement, and that managers’ engagement level is directly impacted by their managers’ engagement.

If organizations want to drive an increase in employee engagement, getting leadership engaged is the starting point for organizational transformation. The cascade effect works in both engagement directions…when headed in the disengagement direction, the results are brutal. Maybe you have lived through this cycle or are currently going through it.

Many moons ago, I worked for an organization, where the President would often come into our Managers meetings, openly voicing (not jokingly) that he didn’t know if he wanted to continue with the business (that he owned)…voicing that he was just going to close the business and become a barista at Starbucks (no disrespect meant to Starbucks baristas). Take a guess as to the overall engagement level of employees in this company, when frequently, the senior leadership was being told that the President was looking at shutting down the operation?

A personal hero of mine, Simon Sinek, discusses the importance of Trust through his notion of the Circle of Safety in his latest book Leaders Eat Last. Trust can only evolve when people feel safe. Safety and trust are key foundational elements for getting to engaged employees. It is nearly impossible to get the desired outcome if you start with the wrong inputs.

The Costs:

Maybe focusing on engagement still appears ridiculous, I mean it can’t really cost much right? Let’s consider the financial costs here and think again. Gallup estimates that the disengaged group alone costs the U.S. between $77 and $96 billion annually…but wait: it gets worse! When factoring in the actively disengaged group, that estimate jumps to: $319 – $398 billion annually. While these numbers are estimates, we know there are tangible costs at stake here. This is the gorilla in the room, and working to fix this problem is a win-win opportunity for the employees (management or not) and organizations alike.

What can we do?

We can start attacking this bleeding hole and silent killer in our economy by shifting our focus. The Clifton Strengthsfinder helps us to start identifying where natural talent resides in all of us individually. It provides a lens so we can focus on what is right with us individually and those on our team. It opens the door to building on strengths and managing around weaknesses through the partnerships that are built on teams and across organizations. The results for organizations focused on developing strengths as outlined in Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and Strengthsfinder organizational development expert, Brandon Miller’s post: Can Focusing on Strengths Really Make a Difference, are staggering and based on nearly five decades of research from Gallup.

So…Much like the tomato and orange juice analogy, we cannot expect engaged employees to blossom from disengaged management.

Think for a moment…Are you personally operating at your best everyday? Is your team operating at their best everyday? Maybe disengagement is rampant around you…I have lived through it personally, as have many others I know. It is why I have become such a staunch proponent of shifting the thinking paradigm to a perspective of strengths as opposed to our cultural inclination toward deficit.

A solution million dollar to the disengagement epidemic is available through the Clifton Strengthsfinder as a starting point, without the million dollar price tag. It does, however, involve change.

Changes in thinking are what got us to amazing realities, ranging from air travel, to the light bulb. Before the Wright Brothers took flight, popular thought may have centered around its impossibilities, until someone shifted the paradigm, once that happened, how quickly did innovation take place in flight? How have these changes had a cascade effect society wide because of some one or people having the courage to change their thinking? I am not asking anybody to go invent an aircraft or a light bulb. I am asking you to consider how a small shift in the lens in which you view the world can impact the world you live and operate in. I am asking that you consider how your life, team and organization will look differently when investing in strengths.

Focusing on Talent…what is right with people, with YOUR people, will be a starting point for bringing out the best in your managers and can really get your engagement cascade effect going in the right direction. Based on the cascade effects broader results through organizations, can we really afford NOT to have engaged managers? Can you afford NOT to tackle this problem when a solution is well within reach?

About the Author:

Darren Virassammy is Co-Founder and COO of 34 Strong Inc. a leader in Strengthsfinder training and consulting. 34 Strong works with organizations across the United States in developing teams around talent to optimize performance and maximize results.

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