How many of you got up this morning and said to yourself, “I’m going to do everything in my power today to be the worst employee I can be.”?
This sounds ridiculous, I know, but isn’t that the way many of us are made to feel when supervisors deal with performance concerns; as if we do it on purpose so we’d better shape up?
Engagement and performance go hand-in-hand. When one is challenged to perform, one usually performs! That’s engagement! Rarely is it the case to find someone who simply is incapable of performing assigned work. Left unchecked, however, employees can turn into poor performers because their supervisors “teach” them that it’s OK to produce at lesser degrees of performance; they do this by allowing small performance concerns to continue with few (if any) consequences that really matter AND because we continue to pay them to to do so! Just a simple and immediate conversation the first time a performance concern arises can make the difference in which direction our performance develops!
Now come today’s Gen-X employees; these are people who grew up learning that it was normal to multi-task; they were even taught to do so at very early ages! Recall those sandbox years when we shuffled our kids off to every kind of after-school activity we could think of, to expand their horizons, to develop their cultural appreciation, and to nurture other skills that would make them highly competitive for college and their working world to come?
These recent employee-arrivals are now ready (and willing) to take on many things, all at once, and to make a significant and immediate difference in the world around them. And what do we do? We try to slow them down by giving them boring work, we pigeon-hole them into less meaningful work assignments, and we treat them the only way we know how … the way we were treated when we first started our careers!!! These decisions set the stage for disengagement!
Employee engagement isn’t just about making sure our employees have work to do; it’s about making sure we are assigning work that is meaningful and productive. In the case of Gen-X employees, this means giving them work and making sure it taps into their desire to make a difference; that’s usually what we do but we don’t take the time to connect the dots for them by attaching their assignments to mission-critical reasons!
So, how do we find out what our employes need to challenge them? We ASK! We CHALLENGE! We MENTOR! The most critical responsibility we have as supervisors and managers is to develop our employees … ALL of THEM! When we assign work, we have to do so equitably! Even though it’s easy to assign the high-profile, short-fused, more complex work to our shining stars, if we don’t give our other employees the chance to develop their shine too, they will never do so!
Challenge your employees; ALL of THEM! I know they’ll surprise you!
Related post: 5 Steps to Get Engaged!
As a recent graduate starting my career, I like it. Since I graduated I’ve worked in start-up environments, ensuring that my efforts mean something. I love it. However, when searching for jobs, it seems like unless you have 5 years of experience, employers want you to only do repetitive tasks. I’m more than happy to help out and perform job functions that aren’t as satisfying. At my part-time, I spent hours putting our stickers on bags because it needed to be done. At the same time, I was trusted to draft press materials and write important marketing pieces about new products. Without being trusted to help with stuff like that, it’s impossible to develop skills to further our careers.
Excellent points! However, I find that most of them apply even MORE to the Gen-Yers/Millenials who have been entering the workforce over the past 8 years or so. 🙂 We X’ers like to think of ourselves as bright shiny new employees who happen to have 10+ years of experience (and some of us…gulp…are nearing 30 years!)