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The Greatest Hurt – Being Ignored



I loved someone very deeply.   I cared about her, asked her to marry me and she accepted!  Shortly thereafter she rejected me. I was heartbroken! Not only did she reject me she ignored me. While it is 15 years ago since this occurred if I think about it, the painful memory of it still cuts deeply. Thankfully it is more than compensated by the happy result that occurred several months later when we reunited. 
What this has to do with leadership and management is offered in Gallup’s research Driving Engagement by Focusing on Strengths. I chose to use a personal situation to emphasize to you that while negative reinforcement can be harmful and de-motivating.  There is something that affects us all more.
What’s surprising in this research? Just as in my personal emotional romance story I was hurt by my love interest’s ignoring me, Gallup’s research shows that employees are more likely to be disengaged if they are ignored than if they are getting negative attention. 
Let me give you the highlights of the research. The intention was to discover what gets employees engaged in their jobs, and of course what prevents them.   Gallup asked a random sample of 1,003 U.S. employees how much they agreed with these two statements: "My supervisor focuses on my strengths or positive characteristics" and "My supervisor focuses on my weaknesses or negative characteristics." Employees who did not agree with either statement were put into an "ignored" category.
Gallup broke it down into three categories based on employee perceptions:
  • employees felt their manager focused mostly on employees' strengths
  • employees felt their manager focused mostly on employees' weaknesses
  • employees did not feel their manager focused on either strengths or weaknesses
Disturbing to Gallup was the number of employees that are ignored at work. 25% indicated this. The surprising number here is that those who were ignored are twice as likely to be disengaged at work.
Recognize that engaged employees perform better. As Aubrey Daniels points out, employees who are engaged will perform at a 40% higher level than those that are not.
Are you a leader or manager who feels it’s better to ignore your people rather than focus on their weaknesses?    Please be aware that it is the worst of two options and leads to poorer performance than even negative reinforcement.
When was the last time you did some management by walking around? When's the last time you discovered what was going on in your employees lives, or really discovered what your managers are doing to engage their staff? Have you been guilty of ignoring your managers or your employees? 

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