The growth and ultimate success of any business is not how good their product or service is; the true fuel of a success story begins and ends with the people who make it all happen. And they will only make “it” happen if they CARE about what they do and who they are doing it for AND when they feel cared for while doing it. When this drops away, a very expensive phenomenon can also set in: apathy or indifference. So, what you see is people coming to work – what you don’t see is how they engage at work. This is also known as presenteeism. Presenteeism, the occurrence of having employees physically present but mentally and emotionally absent, is more pervasive and potentially damaging than having employees chronically absent, because it is almost impossible to detect, harder to quantify, and difficult to define.
Presenteeism doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It occurs as a result of prolonged inattention to how the corporate culture and the structure of the workday affects your employees’ lives as individuals. When operational demands are prioritized over the needs of the human beings, those affected will, consciously or unconsciously, begin to distance themselves. The feeling of not feeling “seen” or “heard” can start a chain reaction that can lead to an organization literally paying for apathy.
The cycle can begin in several different ways:
- Employee A and Employee B disagree.
- No clear involvement (or resolution) from management
- Lingering disagreement erodes trust between the two parties involved resulting in suspicion.
- Prolonged suspicion leads to evidence gathering to support their individual assertions or assumptions and consequently a feeling of victimization.
- Prolonged lack of communication finally results in PRESENTEEISM. Showing up but not working.
- Operational or personnel changes are made at the highest level
- Employees are either not informed in a timely fashion or at all
- Lack of communication seeds misunderstandings [lack of information spurs the imagination]
- Victim mentality sets in, resulting in apathy and finally PRESENTEEISM.
What makes presenteeism particularly insidious is that it is impossible to tell at a glance whether the individual sitting at his or her desk is producing quality work or just waiting for the workday clock to run out. This is why it is critical that employers pay attention when they notice a change. If the quality of the work has decreased, if they seem distracted or unusually hard to communicate with, it is time to act.
One of the easiest antidotes to fighting the plague of presenteeism is throw the doors open to a type of communication that is often difficult to achieve: total transparency. Completely honest conversation can feel very dangerous if participants don’t feel the support of a psychological safety net. This is where you may need a professional to help facilitate peer dialogue that hopefully will result in constructive change. Our next blog will spotlight the process we undertake when trying to help an organization make the lasting changes that can lead to improved workplace morale and productivity, and ultimately business success.
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