Amanda is a diligent virtual worker. She’s always on time to Skype meetings each week. She meets her deadlines. The quality of her work isn’t spectacular, but it isn’t awful either, and besides—she’s consistent. She doesn’t offer many suggestions or advice for projects, but at the same time, she doesn’t complain either.
Do you think Amanda is an engaged or disengaged employee? How would you know?
Chances are you really don’t know whether someone loves or loathes their work. On the surface, someone may seem engaged, but if you dig deeper you may find—to your potential horror—they they’re actually not enjoying their job.
Spotting disengagement can be tricky, especially when it comes to virtual workers. Humans are experts at reading each other’s body language, but when your team works remotely, you lack the visual cues that tell you whether a person is passionate and engaged, or indifferent and disengaged.
In our upcoming book, Follow My Voice, Claire Sookman and Amir Ahmed explain why engagement matters:
Engagement is a powerful tool. Disengagement is a powerful foe. Engaged employees align their needs with the company’s. Disengaged employees don’t believe their companies can or wants to help them. Engaged employees take pride in their work. Disengaged employees would rather not be there. Engaged employees perform better, bring better energy and are more easily motivated. You want engaged employees.
It’s important to help your disinterested employees find pleasure in their work. But how do you notice that a worker is disengaged in the first place? Here are four patterns of behaviour to watch out for!
1. Tasks aren’t completed
We’ve all been there—procrastinating and delaying the grudge work we abhor. But when employees continually miss their deadlines, they’re probably not enjoying the work enough to actually do it.
2. No input
Some people are less comfortable speaking up and giving their two cents; they’re more reserved. So if a team member is quiet during meetings, not giving input, and hesitant to join the conversation, it could mean they’re simply shy. But if you’re used to that person suggesting ideas all the time and, for some reason, they have suddenly stopped—they could be disengaged. They may feel that their input is not valued.
This is an obvious one, but harder to detect with virtual workers, since they don’t physically ‘show up’ to work. Absenteeism in the virtual world, however, can take many forms—missing Skype or telephone meetings, failing to respond to emails promptly, frequently asking for days off.
Why would a colleague suddenly stop showing up? “This might stem from a toxic team environment, or dissatisfaction with the work,” write Sookman and Ahmed.
4. The Blame Game is played
A team member refuses to take responsibility for their share of mistakes on a project and instead blames everyone else—this is a strong indicator of disengagement. On the other hand, an interested and engaged employee takes his or her work seriously, and has no qualms about owning up to their mistakes. Someone who’s engaged will actually want to address and learn from their mistakes.
Stay tuned for updates regarding the release of our new book, Follow My Voice. For now, we welcome you to add to this list—what warning signs would you suggest looking out for when trying to spot a disengaged virtual worker? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!