The data is in! Employee engagement is abysmal in the majority of workplaces today. But, why?

We can no longer ignore it with thoughts like, “not MY employees” or “we’re not THAT bad”, resulting in inaction and burying of heads. These mere “thoughts” and refusal to investigate and address engagement for fear leadership may have to do something about what they find can cost employers millions, if not there entire business!

A leader operating from ego may experience internal messaging that says, “don’t look over there. It may not be too pretty. We may have to be vulnerable. We may have to change!”)

A leader operating from a conscious, servant leadership model seeks to knock down barriers for their employees and develop each to his or her highest potential.

Could outdated models of leadership be the reason for disengagement?

When we think of the costs of disengagement and how they can mount up quickly, consider losses in productivity, quality and service, not to mention turnover, burnout and active sabotage. Recent data indicates nearly 80%, at 77.8% of employees are either “disengaged” or “actively-disengaged”, the latter equating to 17% (almost 1 out of every 5 employees) of employees actively- disengaged. Did you know, active-disengagement is personified by literal sabotage in the work environment? Let’s step back and look at this from a broader view to see the real impact of disengagement and active-disengagement. What we see is employers are actually paying nearly 80% of their employees to either do just enough not to get fired or actively work against the company! Why would we do that?

Well one of my favorite sayings is, “It doesn’t have to be that way anymore”. Thankfully, no it doesn’t! (Come to think of it, this may be a positive inversion of my least favorite saying, “we’ve always done it this way”.) Back to the question, “Why would we do that?!” Why would any conscious person or group pay people to “phone it in” or actively commit sabotage in the work environment? To be honest, the latter question is a loaded one. No really conscious person would permit these behaviors. Yet it happens, when conscious attention to leadership practices and their respective impact is not given, permitted or taken.

Many are waking to the fact that we have two generations in the workforce who have been provided little-to-no formal or informal leadership development. So, what happens when we don’t consciously think about our leadership role? We emulate what we’ve seen. And what we’ve seen are boomers and seniors operating from what is now an extremely outdated and literally damaging leadership style.

Boomers and Seniors by and large (note- there are some wonderful exceptions) adopted the leadership style that was predominant at the time they entered the workforce which, was based on manufacturing economies; the style of command and control, authoritarian-based leadership.

In other words, hierarchy, directives and subordinate compliance-without question were the hallmarks of authoritarian-style leadership. Where authority was given, it was taken and directed to subordinates. Very rarely did this type of environment include collaboration and various levels of stakeholder participation in decision making. The climate was one of “we’re the leaders, we’ll make the decisions and give the marching orders around here.” So, how does this impact us now? Many of the boomers who grew up under the authoritarian-style conditioning still unconsciously follow that same model. While Generation X, the generation following Boomers are emulating what they saw practiced by boomers are now beginning to struggle mightily to attract, motivate and retain the next generation of talent, Millennials. Gen Xers are finding the old model creates more problems than it solves in today’s workforce. Yet, the most progressive and open-minded employers are beginning to see that, in order to survive and even thrive they must become the leader today’s employees need! If continued use of outdated models and nearly 80% of our workforce being disengaged is not detrimental enough to our economic futures and ability to compete globally, consider that, before long, Millennials will be coming into the workforce in droves and won’t have the leadership tools provided either, unless we make the conscious choice to support growth and leadership development.

The data indicates by 2020, (less than 3 1/2 years away) two-thirds (66%) of the workforce will be Millennials. The authoritarian style of leadership is lost on Millennials. Literally! Understand that, they just don’t get it. This is the generation that grew up doing everything in teams and getting trophies for participation. Translation, the Millennials operate from collaboration and want constant/immediate feedback. The Millennials also grew up being exposed to environmental and sustainability issues, resulting in a core value of altruism and greater environmental and community awareness. The result, we are beginning to see Millennials seeking opportunities to make a difference. Career decisions for Millennials are much more likely to be made from a place of altruism over money, differing from their Boomer predecessors who, “live to work”, whereas Millennials “work to live”.

Here again, we recognize a need to shift the workforce structures based on our workforce talent. For example take a look and consider appropriate incentive and compensation structures from the Boomer predominant culture of “show me the money” to a culture that reflects the Gen X and Millennial values of work to live: meaning work anywhere, anytime, have a voice and work with the brightest minds, make a difference, grow and have new experiences.

It’s no wonder we are seeing disengagement numbers like we do above! The collective data is a clear indicator the outdated leadership and work culture is NOT WORKING and must evolve for any organization to remain viable. Businesses need great talent, great leadership and high levels of productivity and creativity if they wish to remain competitive and agile, adapting to today’s global markets. Now is time to take action! High Performance Leadership doesn’t just happen, it’s a conscious decision, followed by consistent action!

By: Ryan McShane, President, HR Evolution LLC,

HR Evolution provides small to medium sized businesses Fortune 500 Level Resources, creating “High Performance Organizations” with Greater Profit, Top Talent, and Outstanding Culture.

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Ryan McShane is the President/CEO of HR Evolution, LLC a consulting firm specializing in Human Resources, Leadership Development and Career Transitions Consulting. Prior to that, Ryan worked in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, learning the various cultural norms, principles and practices of each sector and applying that learning to create High Performance Leaders and Organizations today throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania. Ryan is also the immediate past president for the largest Local SHRM Chapter in the state of Maryland, Chesapeake Human Resource Association, (CHRA). Ryan’s professional affiliations include serving on the Board of Chesapeake Human Resource Association (CHRA), Board member and Membership Director of Hunt Valley Business Forum, a founding member of Conscious Capitalism- Central Maryland, a Member of York, PA’s local SHRM chapter, a Member of UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development (ISD) Advisory Board, and a former Member of the Boomer Council, an advisory council focusing on civic engagement and mature workforce strategies. Ryan is passionate about creating and leveraging existing tools and systems to enable both individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential through greater awareness and a conscious approach to workforce management, honoring all stakeholders, wherein equal consideration is given to People, Planet and Profit.