Disengagement = The Employee Who Quit But Didn’t Tell You


i quit

By, Cari Desiderio

In my years doing what I do, I’ve seen way too many cases of employees who quit and don’t tell management about it. They just stick around and do as little as possible, draining the company of dollars and ensuring little competitive advantage can be had. There are a number of ways to ensure that your employees quit on the job, leading to this low engagement and low productivity. Here’s what you need to do to ensure your employees quit without telling you:

1. Micromanage them
2. When they have great ideas, don’t recognize them (and worse yet steal them)
3. Belittle them and criticize them more than you praise them
4. Enjoy the power you have over them
5. Apply looser rules to leadership than line level employees
6. Fail to pay for performance and let lower performers earn same as higher performers
7. Don’t communicate properly and then chastise employees when they don’t know what to do
8. Have a negative view of humankind and assume punishment is regularly required (eg assume lots of write ups and firing must happen to scare employees into submission)
9. Be apathetic to the warning signs of high turnover
10. Punish and challenge employees when they question you or point out your weaknesses
11. Simply ignore them (this actually speaks volumes)
12. Be insecure and afraid they could outshine you, thereby reinforcing your motivation to do the above listed items

All of the above may sound terrible when bunched up together in one unpleasant to do list, but the reality is that this can be the natural state of management when we let our ego get in the way. Ego leads to a lot of blind spots that reign and what we might call the classic “command and control” style of leadership. The reality is that to engage employees managers need to be on the watch out for their ego, step back, and invest a lot of care and attention into their staff. They must lead by example and lead a culture that starts with accountability at the top. There should always be a higher calling of accountability to leaders than followers. Then, the accountability atmosphere will cascade down from here.

I’m not say that the older fashioned command and control style never worked. It sadly did when times were more abundant and rich for America in the post World War II era and into the later portion of last century. However, we are not living in the past in corporate America. You see, ultimately the command and control style is unable to grow with the complexities of business and the more metrics based system that modern industries command. This is because command and control assumes people are mostly unintelligent/ignorant, and cannot contribute to lead in a flatter organizational style. The issue is that in a more complex industry environment where quality and metrics are becoming key, the command and control style will eventually fail to fully engage the line level folks who must lead the organization to the next level alongside management. So, in time, this old fashioned style of management will be swallowed up by the more modern organizations where work teams and democratic-like cultures thrive because they produce more effective work contributors.

The more effective work contribution piece is where the engagement kicks in. This is old school Theory X and Theory Y stuff, developed by Douglas McGregor in the 1960s at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Anyone who took a psychology class learned this stuff. In a nutshell, Theory X says that you believe people to be inherently lazy and in need of discipline and punishment to perform. This becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. Theory Y on the other hand is the polar opposite. Theory Y suggests that people inherently will embrace and step up to responsibility, and enjoy achievements. I’ve seen both X and Y managers in my years in HR. Theory X folks adopt all of my rules stated above. Theory Y, well, they are magnificent and lead the greatest achieving teams.