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Viewpoint: Discover why your employees stand on the sidelines

Human Resources
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“I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” 
— Jerome K. Jerome

According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace, only 33% of full-time employees in the U.S. are engaged at work. The majority of employees are indifferent.

Chances are you know one of these people. They show up at work. They do their job. Then they go home. They don’t go above and beyond what’s required of them to improve the company or advance its goals. 

We’ve known for some time that engagement in the workplace is a challenge. It’s been written about extensively. 

Sideline employees make up what Gallup identifies as the “actively disengaged” — those who do not enjoy going to work and are sucking the morale out of your organization. They’re unhappy, and everyone knows it. 

Why employees opt for the sidelines will vary from organization to organization. Understanding why is crucial. While this is not an attempt to identify all of those reasons, perhaps these observations will help.

Indifferent leaders produce indifferent employees

Leaders set the tone for the organization. If the leadership is indifferent toward its team members — not engaged with them, listening to them, empowering and equipping them, then it’s going to be a stretch to think the team members will be enthusiastic about coming off the sidelines. If you want your employees to have skin in the game, they first need to see your investment. 

The mission isn’t clear

If your team members can’t identify the mission of the organization, then don’t expect them to commit to uncertainty. Team members will come off the sidelines when they know the mission, when the vision is clear, and when they know what impact their contribution will make. Don’t expect your team members to stick their necks out for what you as a leader haven’t made 

The risk isn’t worth the reward

Leaders move employees off the sidelines by not only sharing the mission and vision but by painting a picture of what victory looks like. Engaged employees would rather risk defeat by being in the game and contributing than watching others celebrate a victory they had nothing to do with. It could be that some on the sidelines are there because there’s no incentive to be in the game.

Poor company culture

YouEarnedlt found 49% of employees say culture influences their employee experience more than the physical environment or the technology to do their job. Company culture cuts both ways for sideline employees. They are on the sidelines because of their perception of a poor company culture but are too indifferent to step up to change it.

The culture of your organization sets the tone for the productivity of your people. As a leader, you must accept responsibility for this.
Moving your people from the sidelines to an all-in commitment requires strong leadership. The foundational principles are relationships, communication, engagement and culture. It’s time to get your players in the game.


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