It may seem a little bit cocky of me to claim or imply I’m a star performer, but a) I don’t spend a lot of time bragging about it and b) people HAVE told me it’s true. So, I think I’m OK here. Regardless, the situation described in this article struck a chord with me. (From the Houston Chronicle)

Star workers tire of performing while others loaf
By JANET H. CHO

What if you found out that nearly half your department’s star performers – the dream employees you couldn’t imagine not relying on – were seriously looking for new jobs?

What would you do?

That scenario isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.

A recent workplace survey of 16,237 workers by Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research firm in Washington, D.C., found that nearly half the people regarded as stellar performers were actively trying to leave their current employers.

Think about that.

Forty-seven percent of your most productive, most creative, most valuable workers are mailing out resumes, going on job interviews, even contemplating other offers.

Even worse, many managers are actually accelerating those departures by how they treat those employees, said Mark Murphy, chief executive of Leadership IQ and co-author of The Deadly Sins of Employee Retention: Cutting Edge Strategies for Keeping Your Best People.

“Frankly, we treat our high performers worse than any other employee,” he said.

“When a manager has a tough project upon which the whole company depends, to whom do they turn?

“Who gets the late hours and the stress? It’s not the low performers, because managers want the project done right. Instead, managers turn to their handful of high performers.

“Over and over we ask our high performers to go above and beyond, making their jobs tough and burning them out at a terrible pace. Meanwhile, low performers often get easier jobs because their bosses dread dealing with them and may avoid them altogether.”

Little wonder that “high performers hate slackers,” he said. “Eighty-seven percent of (high performers) say working with a low performer or a slacker has actually made them want to change jobs. They’re really sick of having to carry the load for everybody else.”

That same study found that:

• Twenty-five percent of middle performers, as measured by their annual performance appraisal scores, are actively looking for another job.

• Only 18 percent of “slackers,” the people who spend more time trying to avoid work than actually doing any, are looking around.

“These are the kinds of issues that the average kindergarten teacher has to deal with on a daily basis, … but most managers have absolutely no training on how to deal with these issues,” Murphy said.

So how do you reverse the trend? First, identify your high performers and commit yourself to holding on to them.

If you oversee a company with 10,000 people, instead of trying to retain 5,000 to 6,000 of them, “get every one of your managers to commit to holding on to the best four or five people,” he said.

Supervisors need to talk one-on-one with each of those targeted people to ask them what they love about their jobs and what drives them crazy.

Be sure to act quickly

“You want to have a private conversation as soon as you sense that someone you consider indispensable may be thinking about leaving,” said Sandy Kristin Piderit, associate professor in organizational behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Piderit suggests an open-ended question such as, “What do you like best about working here?” and letting the employee bring up any negative aspects.

“It has to be the high performer’s decision at the end, but you want to open up the conversation before it’s too late and they have another job and they’re coming in to give notice,” she said. Ask: “What are we doing to demotivate you and how can we stop it?” and “What can we do to keep you motivated?”

Few talk to employees

“Fewer than 25 percent of managers actually go out and talk to their employees about what motivates them and what demotivates them,” Murphy said.

And don’t assume it’s about money. When someone quits a job, 89 percent of managers assume it was over money, whereas 91 percent of the workers who quit say it was anything but, Murphy said.

“There isn’t one thing that demotivates employees, because it’s going to be different for every single employee,” Murphy said.

Bottom-line effect

Peter Rea, who teaches entrepreneurial studies at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio, was not familiar with the Leadership IQ survey, but said it reminded him of a Gallup study on how much engaged employees affect the bottom line.

In a typical organization, 28 percent of employees are highly engaged.

“These are the people for whom it’s a career and not a job,” he said. “They’re the heart and soul of your company.”

Fifty-five percent of workers are less engaged. “For them, it’s a job, not a career,” he said.

The remaining 17 percent are not only disengaged; they are “actually working against the goals of the enterprise,” he said.

It’s not necessarily (in my case) a complete lack of motivation or engagement toward the current situation…and, it isn’t necessarily because of poor management either. But, I don’t want ever to become the person who quits reaching for the brass ring.

So, while ‘looking’ for the next deal, I may not be giving it my all…my undivided attention. But, that doesn’t mean I’m loafing. It just means I’m pacing myself…

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