Chain of Thought

Half of Your Employees Don't Like Their Jobs

Here's a daunting thought for all managers undertaking the employee review process: If you're happy with your job, then chances are that employee sitting across from you isn't. Half of all U.S. employees are either looking for another job or are so unmotivated that their productivity has effectively stalled.

Consulting firm Mercer recently conducted an international survey of workers, more than 30,000 of them, including 2,400 U.S.-based employees. From that survey, it turns out that one-third (32%) of all U.S. workers are seriously thinking about leaving their current companies. And it's the youngest employees who are most inclined to seek greener pastures: 44% of those aged 16-24 say they're thinking of taking their talents elsewhere.

Only 24% of workers over 55, on the other hand, are considering leaving their companies. That doesn't necessarily mean they're anticipating retirement; fewer than half (43%) of all employees believe they're doing enough to prepare financially for retirement. And with only 59% saying they're satisfied with their healthcare benefits, chances are those older workers are hanging on to their jobs longer than they'd like just to be able to continue to pay their bills.

So what does all this employee discontent portend for companies trying to compete in an economy still limping from a recession that won't quite give up? “The business consequences of this erosion in employee sentiment are significant, and clearly the issue goes far beyond retention,” says Mindy Fox, a senior partner and US region leader with Mercer. “Diminished loyalty and widespread apathy can undermine business performance, particularly as companies increasingly look to their workforces to drive productivity gains and spur innovation.”

According to Fox, employees see a big disconnect between what their bosses are promising and what they actually deliver. Adds Pete Foley, a principal at Mercer, “Employers must periodically take the pulse of their own employees to identify their specific areas of concern and link employee opinion to outcomes such as productivity and retention.”

So what's the most effective leadership style for a manager? There are probably as many answers to that question as there are managers, but Dave Anderson, a leadership trainer and author of the new book How to Lead by The Book (Wiley, 2011), offers what he says are time-tested guidelines in how to manage people (including yourself).

Nobody, Anderson says, wants to work for a hardcore command-and-control type tyrant anymore. That kind of “my way or the highway” manager is a major contributor to so many employees moving on to other organizations. Anderson recommends the opposite style of manager: a servant-leader, and he describes the following 12 suggestions of how to be such a manager:

1. Lead by example

2. Set clear expectations for your employees

3. Provide honest and clear feedback to help your employees improve

4. Train, coach and mentor your direct reports

5. Keep your commitments, no matter what

6. Teach your employees what good performance looks like – without doing their work for them

7. Take the time to listen to your employees

8. Learn how to motivate everyone on your team individually

9. Become a role model for your employees, with the right attitude, integrity and discipline

10. Hold your employees accountable when they need to be, without delay

11. Positively reinforce your team

12. Offer opportunities to grow so each team member can become a more valuable employee

Anderson offers a number of training articles and exercises on his LearntoLead website, and when he refers to “leading by the book,” he's not kidding – all of his lessons are based on the Holy Bible.

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