Why Some Employees Don’t Feel Like Working

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“I don’t feel like it,” says a teen asked to clean his room.   “I don’t feel like it,” says a tired mother asked to an after-work yoga class.

But what happens when “I don’t feel like it” comes from an employee asked to do a job?  Whether this sentiment is spoken aloud or demonstrated through low productivity, not “feeling like it” is costly to employers.

Research reveals that a major cause of work apathy is due to employees feeling undervalued.  An American Psychological Association survey found that half of all employees who say they do not feel valued will look for new jobs.  On the other side of this, 93% of employees who do feel valued are motivated to do their best (APA, 2012).

How to Show Employees Value

Besides things like compensation packages and other extrinsic rewards, managers can show employees their value through specific, regular, meaningful praise. Heidi Lynne Curter, Forbes contributor, explains that as far as giving praise goes, many companies are doing it wrong: “Most companies implement something (employee recognition programs) as a check mark but don’t do what’s necessary to keep the program alive. Gestures of appreciation need to be genuine and authentic. Otherwise, employees can see through them.”

Many managers feel like their role is more suited to correcting employee mistakes instead of providing positive feedback.  A 2017 Harvard Business Review survey revealed that many managers avoid giving praise.  “We can only conclude that many managers feel that it’s their job to tell their direct reports bad news and correct them when they make a mistake, but that taking the time to provide positive feedback is optional” (Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman).

But research suggests that employees place huge importance on positive feedback.  Positive feedback is not only motivating for employees but is also linked to better performance and retention.  Zenger and Folkman say that managers should develop the skill of giving praise as well as reinforcing feedback.

To show employees value, managers can:

  • Say thank you
  • Recognize good work through phone calls, personal emails, or talking in person.
  • Notice an employee’s unique contributions and unique skill sets
  • Ask for an employee’s opinion
  • Provide opportunities for professional growth according to employee interest
  • Promote their most valued employees

David Hassell, CEO of 15Five suggests that as far as motivating employees, companies should think like non-profits: “It is no secret that nonprofits are strapped for cash, resources and time. So why, then, do some of the most successful organizations invest a great deal of energy and resources into volunteer recognition? Because it is essential for volunteer retention. Studies have shown that if volunteers feel recognized and appreciated, they will happily continue to donate their time with no expectation of compensation.”

Why Some Managers Feel Praise Weakens Authority

Some managers who do not regularly praise employees feel like it may weaken their own authority somehow.  According to Forbes contributor Liz Ryan, “Old-school, top-down bureaucratic organizations don’t dare value employees, because this might send the message that every employee is not an easily replaceable cog in the machine.  Employees might start to feel significant.”

Perhaps some managers feel that if they give too much praise, their own roles may be threatened by stellar employees.  Does public praise give an employee too much power or rank? Some managers want to always be (or appear) the smartest in the room, the most experienced, the most valued.   They are of the mindset that fear (over losing a job) is the best motivator.

Cost of Feeling Undervalued

Besides being underproductive, employees who feel undervalued often spread negativity to other workers.  They may speak negatively about bosses or talk openly about leaving, making it seem like the “grass is greener” to other employees.  This can quickly create a toxic work environment and lead to costly turnover.

If you are feeling undervalued in your current work environment, now may be the time to speak with a recruiter about other opportunities.  Artemis Consultants is a leader in SaaS, B2B Tech, and Data Services recruiting.  We care about matching job seekers to positions where they will feel motivated and valued.

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