A few weeks ago, I was channel surfing and came across “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978). I remember being held in suspense when this first came out (stop counting years, please). There is something so creepy about having plant-like humanoids replace the real deal. That high-pitched call from the “new” people pointing out those not yet replaced was frightening. When watching it now, I didn’t have the same fast heartbeat panicked fear (although, Donald Sutherland is the man!), but my mind went to the organizations where we work.
Vacant stares, mindless reaction, thoughtless systematic approaches…sound familiar? Have our employees and teammates been replaced by pod-grown humanoids?
We know there are staff who have checked out. They show up, but they’re not there. Good old fashioned presenteeism rears its head as a permanent condition in many companies. Our folks just punch a clock, do their work, punch out and head home, only to repeat again tomorrow. It doesn’t sound like much of a life. That’s because it isn’t.
From a humanistic and perhaps moralistic perspective, we ought to encourage one another towards a more engaged approach. And we don’t do this to tout higher employee engagement survey numbers. Honestly, who cares about just the stats? Big deal that your staff feel more engaged. Are they really more engaged? Listen, the feeling counts; don’t get me wrong. But, I have felt things that didn’t necessarily drive me to do anything differently. Think about getting healthy vs. working out, or being moved by the work of a non-profit vs. volunteering, or appreciating kids vs. raising a family. There is a distinct difference between the feeling and the doing.
When the doing doesn’t happen, the feeling doesn’t matter and will eventually become numb. What each person truly does matters. Is that a message that is held high to the people we work with and lead?
And besides the millions of dollars wasted each year in the US alone due to the impact of presenteeism, there are other consequences. For instance, where will the next process improvement, product development or marketing rollout come from? Active engagement begets further activity. It’s not just that your staff complete a task, but how they do it as well. Encouragement around improvement should be an active stance of a manager who wants to drive a higher result of such improvement implementation. Therefore, everyone is active.
Consider the mission of the organization. Is it passive or active? If it’s written actively, then that should permeate each nuance of the company, staff and work product included. The inconsistency in that messaging is what often allows the mission to only remain a nice plaque in the lobby. Of course, that is never the goal, but it is often the reality. Conduct an experiment with your team. Gather them, have them write the mission from memory (if they can!), and then jot down 3 ways that their jobs meet that mission. They might come up with one right away, but how about after that? That will assist you in aligning the vibrant activity of your team to the mission at hand.
Management has a fantastic opportunity to draw excellence out of a team. Of the many challenges to do so, time might be the strongest. Yes, we’re all so busy. Yes, that’s true for almost all of us. And yet, it seems to take no time at all for a team to wither without the investment and push. Presenteeism isn’t an overnight phenomenon; it is the product of a sustained period where the expectation is very low or consistent and the motivation toward more is non-existent. So, it should be no surprise that it will take even more time to climb out of that perspective and inactivity.
Grab hold of the reigns and re-align! You, too, may be suffering from “not being there” fully. Start with you and quickly let it spread to those around you. Be that influence, both because it is the right thing to do in the lives of others and because it positively impacts the business.
Reclaim those snatched bodies and burn the pods of the inactive, disengaged replacements.