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Caution: Employees No Longer Invested!


The topic of employee engagement is one that arises fairly frequently within leadership teams. Everyone knows -- or claims to know -- the importance of having employees who are engaged (also known as employees who are invested, or have a vested interest). Employees who are invested are essentially those who are committed to the same outcomes as the team, who want to achieve the same goals. Really, it’s about engagement.

What does it take to foster engagement?
Trust, for one thing. Employees who trust their employers tend to be more engaged and committed to working toward the goals that are set out. This means that employers need to be trustworthy. Qualities such as clarity, understanding, predictability, and consistency must be present in combination in order for trust to be built over time.

Appreciation is also important. When employees feel like they are appreciated for who they are, what they bring and how they show up, they become more engaged and invested in organizational objectives. And we’re not just talking about lip-service here. Appreciation that works is sincere, and more than just a cursory high-five or “way to go!”. Appreciation is often felt by employees when employers express interest in who they are, the ideas they bring to the table (including concerns and fears) and what matters to them both within and outside of the work environment.

Personal alignment is also a strong contributor to engagement. Employees who feel able to align their personal values with the values of the organization end up being more engaged with their work environment, and more committed to the team’s success.

Why am I sharing all of this with you?
Because I’ve noticed a few scenarios recently where employee engagement has tanked and has gone unchecked by team leaders, with dire consequences as a result. I know that when I notice a few examples of something in my world, it’s a pretty safe bet that there are other examples out there. And it feels important to me that you have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of these particular teams and individuals.

From the team perspective, here’s what you need to know:

  • All it takes is one employee who’s not invested to undermine the effectiveness of the team

  • The energy of one individual can spread so that more team members lose interest and commitment

  • All team members have a part to play in helping everyone stay invested

From the leader’s perspective, here are some other things to consider:

  • When you notice a lack of interest or commitment and you don’t inquire about it, you send a subtle message that employee investment doesn’t matter

  • Distancing yourself from your employees -- standing apart from them or not checking in on them -- is a sure-fire guarantee that team members will stop doing more than the bare minimum at work

  • Employees who are disengaged won’t care about meeting client needs, representing the organization professionally or meeting team targets

Finally, from the perspective of the employee who’s no longer feeling invested, remember this:

  • Losing your sense of purpose, investment or engagement is something YOU need to take responsibility for

  • When you notice that you’re no longer as driven to do your job well as you were at the outset, it’s time to ask what’s changed (and it may well be time to start looking for something new)

  • If you’re not willing or able to look for something new, it is absolutely time to reorient yourself to your employment, so you can reconnect with your mojo, and do your job well (because at some point you will look for another job, and you’re going to need a good reference)

Before I wrap this article up, let me point you to a sure-fire sign that you aren’t as invested as you once were. When you find yourself asking versions of “Why am I doing this” or “Why do I bother” -- it means you’ve lost your mojo. You might be able to get it back; the question simply needs to be answered to your satisfaction to get yourself back on track. If you notice yourself asking that question a lot, and being unable to come up with a satisfactory answer, that’s your cue that something has got to change, and fast.

Bottom-line: Strong employee engagement is a marker for success all around. Both employer and employee bear responsibility for ensuring that engagement is present and strong. When employee engagement wavers, it must be addressed head-on to ensure that team morale and motivation stay high. Because ultimately, a team that is highly motivated and in a good space is destined for the sort of success that lasts.