A Team Without Passion is No Team At All

All leaders talk about engagement.  But how intentional are leaders about their employee’s engagement on a day-to-day basis?  According to Gallup, the American workforce has more than 100 million full-time employees.  One-third of those employees are engaged at work, which means that they love their jobs and make their organization better.  At the other end, 16% of employees are actively disengaged — they are miserable in the workplace and destroy what the most engaged employees build.  The remaining 51% of employees are not engaged — they’re just there.

Engagement starts with passion.  If an employee does not find passion within their work, then they will be disengaged.  As leaders, we have to be connected enough with our teams to recognize dispassionate workers.  Are we giving our workers what they need to be passionate employees?  Because passion is not solely the responsibility of the employee.  Leaders have to create an environment that fosters passion, as well as cultivate passion on an individual basis.  

Are your employees personally and professionally fulfilled?

To get an understanding of what an employee lacking passion looks like, the following is an excerpt from a fictional conversation between Stefanie, the HR Director for a 100-person insurance company, and Tony, an account manager. He has been with the company for three years.  Over the last six months, Stefanie has noticed that Tony has been more withdrawn and seemingly frustrated.  Also, Tony’s supervisor, Robert, has expressed frustration in Tony’s lack of motivation and stated that Tony’s work is frequently late or incomplete.  Stefanie wanted to set a meeting to check in with Tony and to offer any appropriate support.  

Stefanie:  Hey, Tony.  I wanted to take a few minutes to sit down and check-in with you.  It seems like you haven’t quite been yourself lately.  Is everything going okay?

Tony:  Yeah, I’m fine.  Why?  Has Robert said something to you?  I mean, I have been slammed lately – I’m constantly playing catch up, especially since I keep getting moved around to handle different accounts.  

Stefanie:  I knew that you were shifted over to work with more commercial accounts.  Is the transition not going as you hoped?

Tony:  Well, I wasn’t even asked about being moved over to that division.  Robert just told me that this decision came from his bosses, and he needed me to handle it.  I enjoyed working on the personal accounts.  

Stefanie:  And you don’t like working with the commercial accounts?  Is there something specific that you don’t enjoy?

Tony:  They are entirely different.  I have to learn a whole new set of rules and regulations.  I enjoy a challenge, but I never seem to know what I’m doing.  And, working with these corporations is different than working with people.  It’s all just numbers to them.  

Stefanie:  Have you shared any of these frustrations with Robert?  It seems that you’re trying to take this all on your own.  

Tony:  Who else is there to turn to?  When Wayne left, I got shifted over, and there isn’t anyone else that works in this specialization.  And, when’s the last time you saw Robert around here??  I can barely get him to respond to an email, much less sit down to talk about this.  All I get from him is, “where is this report?” and “are you sure these figures are correct, Tony?”

Stefanie:  I know he’s swamped and stressed too.  

Tony:  There’s a bunch of that going around right now.

Stefanie:  That’s true.  The company is going through a lot right now.  

[Tony rolls his eyes and remains quiet]

Stefanie:  You asked earlier if Robert had said anything to me about you.  He has actually come to me once or twice over the last few months.  He mentioned that your level of work seems to have dropped, specifically that he has to remind you of deadlines and check your work.  He also said your attitude has changed significantly.  

Tony:  Of course, he comes to you to talk about my job performance!  Does he come to me, though?  Nope.  I mean, what does he expect?  That he can throw me into a completely new world of insurance, and I’ll figure it out with no problems in a month?  With no support?  C’mon.  

Stefanie:  I can see why you’d be frustrated and feel overwhelmed.  

Tony: As I said, it’s completely different, and I liked helping people with their problems.  This work feels like I’m only checking boxes for these big companies.  If I had some support or if I felt like Robert and I were on the same page, then it might be better.  

Stefanie:  I’ll encourage you again to try to sit down with Robert and explain your frustrations to him.  I’m happy to help in any way that I can.  

It is easy to determine that Tony is frustrated and overwhelmed with his new role and his supervisor.  And it is causing problems with his effectiveness and productivity.  More importantly, he is not passionate about his work.  But do we know why?  Here are the four core issues causing Tony to be dispassionate (and that Stefanie does not notice):

  1. He doesn’t feel respected.  On multiple occasions, Tony mentions that effective communication with his supervisor, Robert, is lacking, and he is frustrated that he spoke with Stefanie before coming to him.  Tony does not feel valued by Robert.

  2. He is not appropriately challenged.  Tony is being over-challenged, which is causing him not to perform at his best, which is maddening to Tony.  

  3. He is not included.  Again, Tony feels that he can not speak to or get input from Robert, and he repeatedly mentions not being consulted before being moved to the commercial division.  No one likes to feel left out, especially when decisions directly affect their role.

  4. He is not doing meaningful work.  Tony does not feel like he is making a difference working with large companies like he did when working with individuals.  He is not fulfilled and has no idea how his work contributes to the company’s success.  

Over two-thirds of the American workforce feel just like Tony, or worse.  Employees who lack passion create significant problems within organizations.  Problems in productivity, communication, problem-solving, morale, and these problems quickly spread throughout the company.  We, as leaders, have to recognize when our workers are not passionate about their work and, more importantly, help to cultivate individual and cultural passion and engagement.  We have already examined what it looks like when leaders lack passion and the impact of having employees who aren’t passionate. Next week, we will address how to rediscover passion in our workplaces

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