Just Killing Time

A friend came to me for help recently. He told me he hated his job so much that he would sit in the basement car park each day and had to will himself out of the car.   When I asked him  what was going on for him at those times he said he hadn’t really thought about it he just felt he wanted to flee, to quit.

After some discussion it seemed to be a combination of the culture, some co- workers and his boss. Not the job itself.  In Jason’s situation his boss just wasn’t available or present, didn’t facilitate a sense of team cohesion so Jason felt pretty isolated. With no sense of purpose the workplace had formed clicks and become dominated by a few alpha personalities.  Lord of the Flies.

Together we worked through some strategies to deal with the situation which had variable success and after a period of time like a turtle, Jason withdrew into himself, felt more isolated.

He had defectively disengaged.

What I saw happen to Jason is called the flight or fight response, also called the “acute stress response”. First described by Walter Cannon in the 1920s as a theory that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system.

A typical response might be to fight and we  might observe conflict in the workplace, flee – people may leave and the third response is to stay where you are and alternately play ‘fight’ and ‘flee’ by disengaging. Like Jason. Leaving is a perfectly good strategy so why did Jason stay and continue to be miserable?

It a pretty extreme example but I am sure everyone of us has had the Monday morning blues, the hump Wednesday and that longing for the weekend.  Some of us can pin-point something had changed, where we stopped caring so much and just went through the motions.

I was curious and  I asked around my friends and family and found the majority felt disengaged to varying degrees. I asked why and invariably it boiled down to poor leadership and workplace culture. They figured the next job would be exactly the same so there was no point in moving on – this was their lot.

And the single most significant factor contributing to employee disengagement is  managerial relationships.

Victor Limman (Forbes, 2013) “Why Are So Many Employees Disengaged?” cites a recent national study by Dale Carnegie Training placed the number of “fully engaged” employees at 29%, and “disengaged” employees at 26% – nearly three-quarters of employees are not fully engaged (aka productive).

And the number one factor the study cited influencing engagement and disengagement was “relationship with immediate supervisor.” Yet many engagement surveys focus on ‘things’ as fixes i.e better car parking, better organisational communication. Rarely ie never have I seen the outputs to focus on better leadership.

My main take out of Simon Sineks, Leaders Eat Last is that those of us that lead may not always understand the impact that our leadership roles actually have on those we lead.

To those of you, who have disengaged and know its because of bad leadership and the culture that generates. I would encourage you to try along with your co workers to give transparent feedback to your leaders and explain the impact its having. You may be pleasantly surprised at the collective power of a team can achieve in this circumstance.

I realise that this is not always possible or feedback may not be taken the right way. In this circumstance I would speak to a friend, a trusted co worker or even a career professional, find out what environments and situations and companies you want to work for – and seek those opportunities.

Love what you do – you deserve it





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