The Disease of Management Disengagement

 In Employee engagement, employee experience, leadership, Leadership Development, leadership training, Leadership trust, Rick Conlow, Servant leadership

The disease of management disengagement is a problem everyone tends to neglect. Research, surveys, and companies focus on employee disengagement. While managers are employees, they are a critical subset that is the greatest influence on employee productivity and loyalty. It is time to recognize and address the management disengagement issue. The disease sickens a company’s culture. Few people really talk about this. For example, if you go on Google search for management disengagement, it only shows employee disengagement articles or resources.

What Causes Management Disengagement?

Management disengagement emerges because of a lack of trust in executive leadership. Trust declines with poor: ethics, management skills, communication, recognition, pay and benefits, career growth opportunities, learning programs, company vision, and support.

One company we encountered wanted to conduct an employee engagement survey because they had a management employee retention issue.  As we prepared the process the CEO wanted all surveys coded so he could identify each employee’s survey. We countered and declared the only way to do an honest survey was to make it anonymous. He was adamant so we declined to collaborate with him. With this CEO’s blatant lack of integrity, no wonder the company had a poor reputation and a subsequent employee retention issue.

The Disease of Management DisengagementIn addition, managers lose motivation and engagement by the following:

  • Leaders that know it all-communication is one way and manager’s feedback is either not listened to, tolerated, or criticized.
  • No authority to make decisions-if problems arise, and they will, the whole organization slows down until a manager can talk to an executive. Companies like this punish managers who make decisions regardless of whether it was a right or wrong decision.
  • Little or no leadership development-If developmental programs are available but executives are not involved the credibility of the initiative suffers. If no programs are available, of course, the management flounders because of their lack of competence and commitment.
  • Unclear purpose and priorities-when leaders do not clarify, purpose, priorities, and plans it sucks the life out of people. They lack the spirit, heart, and energy to implement programs or directives because they are always changing or ambiguous.

How Management Disengagement Affects Employee Engagement

According to research management disengagement has a significant impact on employee disengagement, influencing overall organizational performance. Here are seven key findings and insights.

Leadership Sets the Tone

  • Studies indicate that leadership behavior, including that of immediate managers, strongly influences the work environment and employee engagement levels.
  • Employees often take cues from their managers, and if managers appear disengaged or unmotivated, it can create a negative atmosphere that permeates throughout the team.

Role Modeling Effect

  • Managers serve as role models for their teams. When managers demonstrate elevated levels of engagement, dedication, and passion for their work, it tends to positively influence the behavior and attitude of their subordinates.
  • Conversely, if managers exhibit disengagement, employees may mirror this behavior, leading to a decrease in overall team morale.

The Disease of Management DisengagementCommunication Breakdown

  • Effective communication from management is crucial for maintaining employee engagement. Disengaged managers may fail to communicate clearly, leading to confusion, uncertainty, and a lack of direction among employees.
  • Poor communication can result in employees feeling disconnected from the organization’s goals and their individual roles.

Impact on Team Dynamics

  • Research suggests that disengaged managers can contribute to dysfunctional team dynamics, such as increased conflict, decreased collaboration, and a lack of trust among team members.
  • Teams led by disengaged managers may experience higher turnover rates and lower levels of job satisfaction.

Decreased Engagement, Productivity, and Performance

  • Management disengagement can lead to a decline in overall team productivity and performance. When managers are not actively involved or invested in their roles, employees may lack the necessary guidance and support to excel in their jobs.
  • Research has shown the difference between disengaged leadership and higher team performance.

Negative Employee Well-Being

  • The well-being of employees relates to the leadership style and engagement level of their managers. Disengaged managers may be less attuned to the needs of their team members, resulting in lower levels of employee well-being.
  • Employees may feel less motivated to contribute their best efforts when they perceive a lack of support or interest from their managers.

Increased Turnover

  • Management disengagement links to higher employee turnover rates. Employees are more likely to seek alternative employment when they feel unsupported or undervalued by their managers.
  • High turnover can lead to increased recruitment and training costs, as well as a loss of institutional knowledge within the organization.

 How to Prevent Management Disengagement

Here are twelve strategies that engage management to the highest level so they in turn deliver top-tier employee engagement with their teams.

The Disease of Management DisengagementLeadership Development

  • Invest in leadership development programs to enhance the skills of managers.
  • Provide ongoing training to keep managers updated on industry trends, management techniques, and leadership skills.

Clear Expectations and Goals

  • Clearly communicate company goals and expectations to managers.
  • Ensure that managers understand their roles and responsibilities within the organization.

Regular Communication

  • Foster open and transparent communication channels between top management and middle managers.
  • Conduct regular meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and provide feedback.

Recognition and Appreciation

  • Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts and achievements of managers.
  • Implement a recognition system that rewards superior performance and dedication.

Work-Life Balance

  • Encourage a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout.
  • Provide flexibility when possible and support initiatives that promote employee well-being.

Empowerment and Autonomy

  • Empower managers by giving them autonomy in decision-making.
  • Trust managers to take ownership of their responsibilities and projects.

Feedback and Evaluation

  • Conduct regular performance reviews and provide constructive feedback.
  • Create a culture of continuous improvement, where managers commit to and learn from feedback.

Opportunities for Growth

  • Provide opportunities for career advancement and professional development.
  • Support managers in setting and achieving their personal and professional goals.

Team Building

  • Foster a positive team culture where managers feel connected to their teams.
  • Organize team-building activities to strengthen relationships and boost morale.

Servant Leadership

  • Promote diversity and inclusion within the organization.
  • Encourage leadership practices that put people-first, and values different perspectives.

Flexible Work Arrangements

  • Offer flexible work arrangements to accommodate different work styles and preferences.
  • Provide tools and resources to enable remote work when applicable.

Addressing Concerns

  • Act promptly to address any concerns or issues raised by managers.
  • Create a mechanism for managers to voice their opinions and seek resolution for problems.

The Disease of Management Disengagement

Pulling It All Together

The above strategies support a Servant Leadership approach. Without this clarity and support managers are only there to execute leadership decisions. Their role emerges as a leader’s lackey. Consequently, they lack authority, resources, talent, and desire to deal with challenges, problems or extenuating circumstances that arise dealing with employees. They react with negative attitudes and the disease of disengagement.

As a result, employees learn to ignore and disrespect the managers. Gallup research shares that 81% of managers are ill prepared to do their jobs and fail. Also, 60% of new managers fail. Can you imagine the ill will and malaise that arises throughout an organization?

With foresight and commitment executive leadership must invest in and value their management team as described. Consider these quotes from CEOs that “get it.”

  • “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” 
    Doug Conant, founder and CEO of Conant Leadership, former president, and CEO of Campbell’s Soup
  • “Treat employees (managers, too) like they make a difference, and they will.” 
    Jim Goodnight, CEO, and co-founder of SAS Institute
  • “Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees (or managers).”
    Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

Also, click here for a complimentary resource called– How Does Servant Leadership Work?

The Disease of Management DisengagementIn addition, see our RealTime Learning & Training leadership and personal development website–over 300 resources. Micro-learning and career advancement at your fingertips!

Finally, see Rick’s newest book. The 5 Dynamics of Servant Leadership: How to accelerate your career and inspire your team!  See his newest self-directed leadership training: 21 Servant Leadership Training Lessons.

CEO/Founder, Rick Conlow International: RCI transforms managers from good to great coaches and trains them to become Servant Leaders. Clients achieve record-breaking performances in sales growth, customer experience improvement, employee engagement and leadership effectiveness. Furthermore, RCI’s online resources coach and train all managers or employees to higher levels of career success.

Note: Research for this post completed with ChatGPT input.


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