How Many of Your Employees Are Checked Out?

Help disengaged employees focus on what they can control instead of all the obstacles that may be in the way.

How many employees think about quitting their jobs every day? A recent Gallup poll shows that the number could be as high as 71 percent. Think about that for a second. For every 10 of your employees, seven may be so disengaged that they fantasize about quitting their jobs at least once a day. That’s a shockingly high percentage! And it would be even more shocking if people were actually quitting.


In fact, the situation is worse. Instead of quitting their jobs, these miserable, disengaged employees keep showing up at work and collecting paychecks.

How to spot an employee who has already quit (in her mind)
Take Karen, for example. After eight years with the same financial services company, Karen’s career has left her tired and uninspired. For the past four years, she has been stuck on an overstretched team with a shrinking budget and a series of unsympathetic supervisors. Good thing she knows her job so well, she could do it in her sleep. And that’s exactly what she does – using autopilot to get through her work. She also spends a fair amount of time moping, complaining and making excuses, convinced that her circumstances are the cause of her misery.

Karen is mentally and emotionally checked out – one of the 71 percent who withhold the talents and capabilities for which you hired them. She is unwilling to revive those talents and capabilities unless YOU, her leader, can make her happy.

Should you try to make employees happy?
The answer is an emphatic NO. You shouldn’t. That’s partly because you can’t. The only person that can make Karen happy is… Karen. In many cases, as leaders, we think of employee engagement as a way to perfect the workplace, to make it easier for employees to do their jobs. The truth is that leaders cannot change every circumstance to make people happy.

How Reality-Based Leadership changes the game
Look, we are all facing harsh circumstances. We’ve been through some tough economic times. Organizations are still struggling. We don’t always like our bosses. Our jobs can be tedious. Budgets are always smaller than they should be. But the Reality-Based Leader looks at those circumstances and accepts them for what they are: reality.

The best thing leaders can do for disengaged, checked out, miserable employees who have already quit in their minds is to help them accept reality, too. Instead of arguing against reality (a.k.a. the facts), Reality-Based Leaders encourage employees to engage with it – focusing on the battles they can win, not the ones that are destined to fail. These leaders teach personal accountability, resilience and determination, turning “Why does this always happen to me?” into “How can I help?”


Are you a Reality-Based Leader? Take this assessment to find out.