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The High Cost of Low Engagement

July 10, 2018

This week, I want to briefly unpack a topic I address in my new book The Lens of Leadership.

The longer I’m in the working world, the more passionate I am about sharing this idea because I see it play out in every single organization. The basic principle is this: there are four stages that professionals go through in their working environment. And I believe that understanding these stages can change the atmosphere, increase productivity, and positively impact the overall success of your organization.

Each individual in your company (business, school, non-profit organization) falls into one of the four quadrants pictured below. I’ll discuss each one, the natural progression of the professional, and why you need to change it.



Stage 1: Passionate but not prepared.

This is the person in the first few weeks of a new job. She shows up and is excited for her role, but she isn’t prepared to contribute. That’s not her fault—she can’t be equipped until she understands the organization and her role. This is the natural first step in everyone’s journey within an organization, or even a new role within an organization. We all have to be trained to learn a new trade or skill.

Stage 2: Passionate and prepared.

This is where you want every individual in your organization to be. This person is passionate, engaged, enjoys his job, and he’s equipped to do it well. Stage two is the sweet spot.

Stage 3: Prepared but no longer passionate.

Unfortunately, this is a stage familiar to most of us. In fact, we might be here right now. In stage 3, an individual knows how to do her job, but she’s no longer as engaged as she used to be. Whether it’s a lack of excitement or just less commitment, this person isn’t as engaged. However, there’s hope. We can get back to stage 2 from here, but a lot of times, people hang out here far too long. Negativity and discontent increases, and they are strong recruiters of people in stage 2. The person in stage 3 is always luring others to join them. Misery loves company, doesn’t it?

Stage 4: Not passionate and no longer prepared.

This individual has been disengaged for so long that he’s stopped investing in his work. Not only is he disengaged, but he also isn’t even functionally good at his job anymore.

There’s a tendency for some professionals to think discussions about engagement, or employee passion, are fluffy or unimportant. However, there is a real (and very high) cost to having people in stages 3 and 4 in your organization.

A recent Gallup poll shows that 32% of employees are “engaged” (that is, in stages 1 and 2), 51% are “not engaged” (stage 3), and 17% are “actively disengaged” (stage 4).

Consider an average-sized company with 100 people. Gallup’s poll would say that 68% are disengaged, but we’re going to give this particular company a lot more credit. This is a highly-engaged company and only has 20 people in stage 3, and none in stage 4—20 people that are prepared but no longer passionate. If there are 20 disengaged people in this company and the average person makes $20 an hour, that’s 20 people X $20 an hour X 40 hours in a week X 52 weeks in a year = $832,000.

Are you reading that correctly? $832,000.00. That’s a lot of money!

Now, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they aren’t wasting all of their time, but they aren’t quite as productive as they used to be. Let’s say a fourth of their hours aren’t as productive—that’s still $208,000 in lost productivity.

Do you know an organization that could benefit from an additional $200,000+ dollars?

It doesn’t matter what type of organization you’re in, there is a very high cost to low engagement. If you’re in a position to help engage people, make that your focus this week!

If you aren’t, perform an audit of your own engagement. If you aren’t in stage 2, either find a way to get there or find another place where you can be prepared and passionate!

I have a new book out called The Lens of Leadership. It’s all about perspective because I believe the way we view things changes how we do things. 

CLICK TO ORDER The Lens of Leadership


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