Are Your Employees Disengaged or Frazzled?

A recent article in Industry Week on putting brain science to work in your company that reviews Daniel Goleman’s The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights, which addresses the question of how you get the most from your people, is right when it notes that disengaged and frazzled employees aren’t really contributing to your organization.

Disengagement, where an employee is in a low-motivation state where they are distracted and inattentive to the task at hand, occurs when an employee is not inspired, motivated or engaged in the work they do. A disengaged employee performs well enough to keep his job, but no better.

Frazzled, where an employee is flooded with a cascade of stress hormones that causes the employee to focus on the problem bothering him rather than his job, occurs when the employee is upset with something. A frazzled employee can only address the problem, not the solution.

Only an employee in the flow, a state of neural harmony, where only what is relevant to the task at hand is what is activated, can be truly productive. The flow maximizes cognitive abilities and puts people are at their best. An employee in the “flow” isn’t the problem.

Moreover, not only will disengaged or frazzled employees not be productive, but their disengagement and frazzledness can spread to their coworkers. It’s hard to give a cr@p when no one around you does. And if everyone is stressed out, chances are you will get stressed out to.

Thus, if an organization wants to be productive, and take it to the next level, the first thing it should do is identify those employees who are disengaged or frazzled and figure out why. If an employee is disengaged because tasks, in an effort to become lean or efficient, have been broken up to the point where they are monotonous, then the organization should address its processes and procedures. Sometimes assembly-lining tasks is a good idea, sometimes it isn’t. If all a person does is check totals on reports, that’s not a good procedure. And if a group of employees who are always frazzled have the same boss, chances are that the boss is the problem. Shape him up (with training) or ship him out (with a pink slip). Next level requires productivity, productivity requires engagement, and engagement requires being in the flow. Make sure your employees are there before trying to knock it up a notch.