How to dis-engage an employee

In the ever-evolving landscape of organisational dynamics, maintaining high levels of employee engagement stands as a paramount challenge for leaders. However, as evidenced by the disheartening tale of “Samantha”, sometimes leaders unwittingly catalyse the very disengagement they seek to avoid. Let’s delve into Samantha’s narrative and extract invaluable lessons on how not to disengage an employee.

Samantha’s journey begins within a semi-government organisation, where she, a seasoned procurement professional, finds herself amidst a series of leadership tumults. Initially recruited by her manager’s manager, she steps into her role with optimism, only to find her manager conspicuously absent, leaving her to bridge the gaps.

Unexpectedly, both her immediate manager and manager’s manager exit the organisation, thrusting Samantha into an acting manager role. Despite her competence, Samantha harbors no aspirations of climbing the corporate ladder, content with contributing as a high-performing team member.

However, the plot thickens when Samantha is encouraged to apply for the permanent managerial position. After a seemingly promising interview process, she receives an offer that not only falls short of her expectations but also undermines her worth and experiences a slap in the face to her dedication and commitment.

The role was advertised as a Level 4. Being internal, Samantha was aware that a Level 4 salary range was $97,000 to $134,000. Samantha’s substantive position, the one she was recruited for a year earlier, was a Level 3 and she was on $95,000. Many of you would be aware that there is often overlap between the salary scales, meaning it is possible for someone at the “top” of Level 3 to be earning more than someone at the “bottom” of Level 4.

Given her experience, Samantha knew that the “negotiation” for her salary for the role she was being offered was now to commence. She was aware that despite the true range of Level 4 being up to $134,000 the role was advertised to a maximum of $122,000. Having done her homework, Samantha was aware that $122,000 was considered the “mid-point” of the Level 4 salary scale.

Given Samantha had been informed by her General Manager that she was “perfect” for the role, and she had “beaten” external applicants, what salary do you expect Samantha would have reasonably expected to be offered for this role?

The offer was $100,000.

This was a shock to Samantha. She was informed that due to her being an internal applicant, she was required to start near the bottom of the Level 4 scale. This had not been explained to her when she was encouraged to apply for the role.

The crux of Samantha’s disillusionment lies not merely in the monetary aspect but in the blatant disregard for fairness and transparency. The organisation’s failure to honor Samantha’s contributions and negotiate in good faith not only erodes trust but also shatters her sense of belonging and value.

The repercussions are far-reaching. Samantha’s decision to decline the offer and revert to her previous role is symptomatic of a broader malaise – an erosion of trust and engagement stemming from leadership ineptitude.

So, what can leaders glean from Samantha’s ordeal?

First and foremost, transparency reigns supreme. Open communication, especially concerning matters as critical as compensation, fosters trust and alignment. Samantha’s experience underscores the perils of opacity and the corrosive impact of perceived unfairness.

Secondly, value recognition is non-negotiable. Employees are not mere cogs in the organisational machinery; they are invaluable people deserving of acknowledgment and respect. By failing to recognise Samantha’s worth, the organisation not only loses a capable leader but also damages its employer brand.

Lastly, integrity must permeate every facet of the employee experience. Leaders must uphold their commitments and operate with integrity, forgoing short-term gains for long-term sustainability. Samantha’s disillusionment serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the dire consequences of leadership lapses.

In essence, Samantha’s saga serves as a poignant reminder – employee engagement is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor but a delicate dance requiring empathy, transparency, and integrity. As leaders, it is incumbent upon us to heed these lessons, lest we inadvertently sow the seeds of disengagement within our organisations.

In navigating the intricate terrain of employee relations, leaders must adopt a proactive stance, consistently prioritising the well-being and engagement of their teams. Samantha’s narrative offers invaluable insights into the nuanced interplay between leadership decisions and employee morale.

Moving forward, organisations must embrace a culture of fairness and equity, wherein meritocracy reigns supreme. Samantha’s disappointment stemmed not only from the disparity in compensation but also from the perceived injustice of being penalised for her internal status. Leaders must eschew arbitrary policies that undermine employee morale and instead champion merit-based practices that empower individuals to thrive.

Furthermore, fostering open channels of communication is paramount. Samantha’s disillusionment was exacerbated by the lack of transparency surrounding the recruitment process and salary negotiations. Leaders must cultivate a culture of openness, wherein employees feel empowered to voice their concerns and grievances without fear of retribution. By fostering a culture of trust and transparency, organisations can mitigate the risk of disengagement and cultivate a more inclusive and collaborative workplace environment.

Moreover, empathy must underpin every leadership decision. Samantha’s experience underscores the importance of understanding and addressing the unique needs and aspirations of each employee. Leaders must take the time to listen to their team members, empathise with their concerns, and proactively seek solutions that align with their individual goals and aspirations. By demonstrating empathy and understanding, leaders can foster a sense of belonging and loyalty that transcends monetary incentives.

Ultimately, Samantha’s journey serves as a cautionary tale for leaders navigating the complex landscape of employee engagement. By prioritising fairness, transparency, and empathy, organisations can cultivate a workplace culture that empowers employees to thrive and flourish. As leaders, it is incumbent upon us to learn from Samantha’s experience and strive to create environments where every individual feels valued, respected, and empowered to reach their full potential.

Moreover, proactive measures to rectify the situation are imperative. Samantha’s case underscores the importance of swift and decisive action in addressing instances of employee dissatisfaction. Rather than allowing grievances to fester, leaders must demonstrate a willingness to acknowledge and rectify mistakes. Timely intervention can salvage employee morale and prevent the escalation of disengagement.

Additionally, organisations must invest in robust policies and procedures that uphold principles of fairness and equity. Samantha’s ordeal highlights the pitfalls of ad-hoc decision-making and the need for standardised processes that ensure consistency and transparency. By implementing clear guidelines for recruitment, promotion, and compensation, organisations can mitigate the risk of bias and discrimination, fostering a culture of trust and accountability.

Furthermore, leaders must prioritise ongoing dialogue and feedback mechanisms to gauge employee sentiment and address concerns proactively. Samantha’s disenchantment could have been averted had her organisation fostered an environment where employees felt empowered to voice their grievances and participate in decision-making processes. By soliciting regular feedback and acting upon it, leaders can demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement and employee well-being.

Lastly, fostering a culture of inclusivity and belonging is paramount. Samantha’s experience highlights the detrimental impact of marginalisation and discrimination on employee engagement. Leaders must champion diversity and inclusion initiatives that celebrate differences and create opportunities for all employees to thrive. By cultivating a sense of belonging and respect, organisations can foster a more cohesive and resilient workforce, better equipped to navigate challenges and seize opportunities.

In conclusion, Samantha’s journey serves as a sobering reminder of the profound impact of leadership decisions on employee engagement. By prioritising fairness, transparency, and empathy, organisations can mitigate the risk of disengagement and cultivate a workplace culture where every individual feels valued, respected, and empowered to succeed. It is incumbent upon leaders to learn from Samantha’s experience and strive to create environments where employees are not just engaged but truly fulfilled.

For more insightful discussions on leadership, employee engagement, and organisational culture, consider subscribing to Gary Ryan’s podcast, “Moving Beyond Being Good.” Gain valuable insights and practical strategies to elevate your leadership journey and create thriving workplace environments.

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By Gary Ryan

Gary Ryan helps talented professionals, their teams and organisations, move Beyond Being Good®