Has Presenteeism Crept into Your Organization?

Several of my clients have key employees who come to work every day and produce at a sub-optimal level. Their firms are operating under competitive pressures and need everyone to do their best to get the job done. These particular employees have essentially stopped trying.

This is a form of presenteeism, a condition when people come to work but just go through the motions. This term originated from people coming to work when they’re sick (as opposed to staying home) and who don’t produce at the same level as employees who are well.

There is a high cost to employees who have checked out, especially if they’re in key roles. First, you’re paying full salaries and benefits for people who are barely producing. Second, they infect your staff with their bad attitudes and work ethic in overt and subtle ways. Third, they cause resentment (“if she gets away with it, why should I kill myself to meet this deadline?”) which results in deteriorating morale.

Probably as important, but more subtle, is the negative impact on the leaders. You know exactly what’s going, but may be denying the consequences of this behavior. You dread dealing with the confrontation, so avoid the difficult conversation.

You can’t let this inertia bring down your organization. By not doing anything, you become part of the problem.

I would never suggest precipitously dismissing these employees. After all, if they have filled key roles you owe it yourself and them to have a sincere conversation where you tell them why it isn’t working out. Create a timeline based on work that needs to be completed, and plan this conversation and your other action steps accordingly.

This is one of the harder people management issues. No one likes to confront someone who used to be valuable but who has checked out. Find your best combination of being firm and empathetic, and take care of this sooner rather than later.

Have a great day!


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