A disengaged employee? Perhaps they’ve outgrown their role…

Key to the role of being a manager is to get work done through other people. To do this effectively, managers should look at building their team and developing the individuals within it.

Leadership is about empowering your team; by giving them opportunities to grow, developing their skillset and ensuring each member becomes a reliable piece of the puzzle. However, a key skill for managers (at any organisational level), is to be able to identify when a member of their team has outgrown their role.

Employees who outgrow a role are often quick to become disengaged with their work. It’s estimated that a disengaged employee can result in £3,400 – £10,000 of wasted salary to employers in the UK. And it’s a quick step to see the impact disengagement therefore has on the £52–70 billion in lost productivity the UK economy is said to suffer from.

Being able to identify staff who are stuck in a role which no longer fits them, is a quick way for supervisors to address disengagement. Typically addressing the issue with one employee can also have wider reaching effects than for just the individual, as disengaged staff are likely to impact morale across the workplace.

So how do we get to a position where staff outgrow a role?

Keen to develop themselves, members of staff will take on additional tasks to their core role, stretching it in new directions. This may include; deputising for their manager, increasing their level of client contact, taking on more reporting, or project focused work. Or perhaps it’s simply a member of staff who has been in a position for so long, they no longer take interest in the day-to-day tasks left to complete, and drift into new responsibilities to try and gain that excitement for work they may have once had.

By looking at this progression for both a front line employee and at a team leader level, we can see how easy it is to move from developing the individual to exhausting the avenues a role can take. But once that movement from the core function of ‘getting the job done’ has taken place, employees aren’t content to just continue.

Some key outgrowing ‘tells’ for an active manager to look out for:

  • Employee is no longer excited about taking on new tasks or projects, which once would’ve excited them.
  • The member of staff has become the ‘go-to’ for support, but in turn have few or no people they can speak with to challenge themselves.
  • There’s no longer room for growth in their current role.
  • They lack creativity and rarely contribute new ideas or provide ways to improve services.
  • Finally, they are content in doing things ‘how they’ve always been done’.

What can managers do to address the issue?

Ensuring consistent communication with staff on a regular, daily – weekly – monthly basis, to focus on the daily goals and celebrate successes is one way to improve engagement.

A good leader should, however, identify new opportunities. This provides a chance to promote the employee they’ve developed. Hopefully there’s room internally to offer this new chapter – retaining the employee, their knowledge and promoting internal progression.

But if there isn’t the internal role available, what happens then? This is where difficult conversations may have to take place. But distinguishing a great leader from a boss, are those who can identify the potential within their team and encourage their staff to continue to spread their wings, even if that may no longer be under the same roof. After all, the impact of disengagement can have a far more damaging effect on performance.