Many businesses today are suffering from a terminal illness, and they likely don't even know they're sick. Because these companies are functioning well enough to get by, they don't believe they need the type of expertise required to diagnose a sick business and, more importantly, develop a remedy. This newest workplace epidemic can be summarized in one word: presenteeism.
Presenteeism is typically defined as having employees who show up to work and do the bare minimum. They don't step up and provide extra value; they do just enough to get by. They fly under the radar and give only what's explicitly asked of them — nothing more and nothing less. Part-time productivity at full-time wages may impact your operating costs more than you realize.
Hauling Out the Lifeboats
Fifteen years ago, business was booming all around — except for the company where I was working. I was promoted into a leadership role and tasked with turning around my branch; I wasn't given extra budgetary resources or training. Barely having any leadership skills and lacking a college degree, I was clearly in over my head.
The one thing I was smart enough to realize was that the company was not only on the verge of financial distress, but its people were on the edge of emotional breakdowns as well. My co-workers were mentally depleted and beaten down. I wouldn't be able to do anything with a bad financial situation and a struggling staff, so I decided that my first priority was to inspire change and foster an environment that encouraged uniqueness and creativity.
Our office took on a philosophy that every morning, when employees showed up for work, the company's balance sheet went up; every night, the balance sheets went down because the employees had left for the day. We shifted from being customer-centric to being company-centric. I focused all my time and attention on the people who showed up, day after day, to help me right our ship.
As the team began to feel valued, they repaid me by going the extra mile. Absenteeism improved because people wanted to come to work, and presenteeism disappeared. Our operating costs went down, sales went up, and after one year, we'd moved from the bottom 5% in companywide results to the top 5%.
Sailing with a Full Crew
This team of poor performers needed some work, but they didn't require a complete overhaul. They needed someone to believe in their greatness so they could see it for themselves. While I never became a financial expert, I did become a "people expert," and I've turned around three other companies' ships without a single layoff since then. In many of these cases, senior leadership thought that the underperformers should be fired. I liken the job of a turnaround leader to that of a search-and-rescue mission — we have to find the talent hidden in each of these underperformers, and we need to exploit it.
This kind of thinking shifts the focus from fault-finding and blaming to developing others' strengths and potential. The root cause of presenteeism in the workplace is poor leadership. More than one-third of workers spend at least an hour a day complaining about their bad boss, confirming the truth that employees leave managers, not companies. Your crew wants to contribute to your company; they just need to believe you're listening to what they have to contribute.
Focus all your activities on educating, energizing, and empowering employees so they can give their personal best in the workplace. Relinquish your need to be right, and realize that the solutions to your team's problems lie within the team itself. Somebody simply needs to ask the right questions and listen to the answers in response. As the captain of your crew, that's your job. When you design the solutions together, everyone is vested in the outcome; you'll find buy-in where you might never expect it. And your entire team will be astounded as they see themselves accomplishing things they never thought possible.
Captains and Chaos
Today's business environment requires that all leaders understand how to manage in chaos. Everyone needs to be able to function like a turnaround specialist, changing the course. Being on a bad path doesn't mean you're stuck on it.
Likewise, you're not stuck in old mindsets. Don't think about where offices are positioned — corner offices and cubicles are equal. Concentrate on becoming the person who will crawl through muck and mud to reveal an employee's true talents. Instill confidence and worth in your employees, and they'll be willing to crawl through muck and mud for you, too.
The changes need to start with you. Leaders have incredible influence over their crew; what kinds of beliefs are you imparting on your team? When the ship needs to be redirected, the people who can help you change course are the same people who are just "showing up" today. You need to know what their best is in order to get it — go find it, and they'll show up to work.
Wendy Komac is a business turnaround specialist and author ofÂ I Work with Crabby Crappy People, a humorous and highly informative book about achieving happiness and success. She is also a"Â¨Principle atÂ Sustainable Innovations Group, LLC, and the Senior Vice President at SIRVA Relocation, where she develops and executes strategic growth and sales goals.