In his book, “Building a Magnetic Culture”, Kevin Sheridan, Chief Engagement Officer at Human Capital Management, discusses the different levels of engagement we find in the workplace and their effect on each other. Peer pressure is alive and well in our 21st century offices. Which means the engagement levels our employees experience can spread like a virus.

peer pressure

We’ll dive into the ways we can spread positive engagement.
First let’s discuss, as Sheridan details, the different types of employees we encounter:

Employee Types

Actively Disengaged Employees 

are the “Negative Nancy”s of the workplace. They can be found constantly complaining, focusing on problems and openly expressing their discontent and negative outlook on their position.

Ambivalent Employees

are arguably the most dangerous type of employee because they’re often the hardest to spot. They are fulfilling their basic job responsibilities, but not much more. In fact, they rarely offer to lead projects or volunteer for extra opportunities. These nine-to-fivers just want their paycheck, with bags packed and feet out the door by five o’clock sharp.

Actively Engaged Employees 

are the ideal type of employee. As engaged employees, they consistently go above and beyond their job description. They promote the mission and vision of the company’s brand, contribute new ideas, and are optimistic about their future in the company.

Making a Change

Because the majority of employees fall within the Ambivalent category, it’s crucial that they move towards becoming Actively Engaged versus Actively Disengaged.

In a previous article we discussed the importance of workplace friendships on both personal health and organizational success. This is evidence that peer pressure can be essential in driving the increase of employee engagement. One tactic managers can implement is putting these Ambivalent Employees in close proximity to Actively Engaged Employees through group projects and assignments. Because these Engaged employees thrive in environments where they can step up to the plate and lead others, it’s a great way not only to involve the Ambivalent, but also encourage and affirm those employees who are already engaging in positive ways.

Most of the time, however, we don’t associate peer pressure as being a positive force. Just like a high school bully, Actively Disengaged Employees can negatively affect every person in their surroundings. Their negativity can be a virus to the workplace. It’s important not to shy away from addressing this negativity as quickly as possible to not infect others. Because these employees are primarily motivated by their paycheck, it is not likely they will leave on their own initiative. For that reason, it’s crucial that managers speak with any actively disengaged employees.

Address the Whys

When speaking with these employees, it’s also important to assess why they may be feeling apathetic in their work. Many times there could be an opportunity for a constructive conversation. In fact, this conversation could even transform them into some of the mostly highly engaged employees in the organization. However, it is likely that the position or the company may not be a great fit for this particular person and, in that case, discuss transitioning them out of the company.

Taking a page out of Sheridan’s book, “Creating a workplace environment where Engagement thrives and Disengagement dies should always be a management priority.”

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About Katie Williamson

Katie Williamson is a Senior Marketing Associate at PerkSpot, providing creative insights and challenging the way we think about the workplace.

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