Employees Hate Their Work? How Companies Are Losing Millions of Dollars With Low-Performing Cultures
Having employees who stay at your company for a long time is usually a good thing. But what about those who stay but hate what they’re doing?
These people bring down the company with poor performance—slow rolling and passing the buck onto others. They stay out of necessity, not because they want to be there.
In this article, we’ll learn about the effect these employees have on business processes. Plus, how to identify low-performing cultures and give your team the best chance of staying positive and productive.
What’s the Impact of Employees Staying in Jobs They Hate?
Every business owner can relate to bringing on people who don’t care and watching their productivity deteriorate.
The same is true of CEOs of companies who have employees who once cared. Through time, these team members get burnt out, lose faith in the mission, or don’t feel valued and respected. Whatever it is that the person is feeling and going through (especially their own personal traumas) can impact their performance.
In some cases, it may be the fault of leadership for employees growing to hate their roles. A good example to learn from is Blockbuster. While many blame its demise on Netflix, the fault lies with leadership’s focus on profit and a culture that didn’t allow ideas to be brought forward.
The board was fighting amongst themselves on the best strategy, leaving the employees below to feel lost. In-store employees, who once enjoyed recommending movies and personalized service, were told to push candy and trinkets instead. Their sense of purpose was taken away from them.
Culture gives work meaning, and that’s what most people strive for. Our research shows that great employees stay in horrible cultures for a short period of time. The rest hang around and continue to make it toxic.
Those who stay more than two years in a company without feeling a sense of purpose and connection to its vision are the most likely to perform at their worst. And when that happens, companies underperform.
4 Ways Low-Performing Cultures Affect Your Business
Companies experience financial trauma when an employee’s personal traumas impact their performance. If it’s your workplace or culture that’s causing these negative feelings, it’s down to you to fix it.
Here are four ways low-performing employees and cultures can affect your business:
Employee well-being worsens
Unnecessary additional costs
Poor customer experience
No sense of community
1. Employee Well-Being Worsens
A negative atmosphere in the workplace affects everyone. It creates burned-out, stressed people who feel undervalued. And no one can work to a high standard of productivity under those conditions.
Employees who aren’t engaged in their work are less efficient as they don’t really care about what they’re doing. Harassment or conflict between team members can impact people’s emotional (and even physical) health. On the extreme end of the scale, a negative culture can lead to loneliness and depression.
2. Unnecessary Additional Costs
Studies have shown that the financial cost of a low-performing employee in a company can be around $17,000 for entry-level team members to upwards of $150,000+ for high-level executives.
In addition, there are opportunity costs, legal costs, lost revenue, and additional costs for replacing those employees, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per employee. You want to spare yourself from these financial burdens with the retention of productive staff members.
3. Poor Customer Experience
Your employees are your business. When they’re satisfied in their roles and how they’re being treated, they’re more likely to go above and beyond. For your customers, this means a much better experience.
When employees are unsatisfied (especially if they’re sticking around and hating what they’re doing), you’ll see the opposite effect.
If these employees eventually do leave and the blame lies with leadership, they’ll talk about it—something that will negatively impact your employer brand and, potentially, recurring business.
4. No Sense of Community
If your employees don’t have a shared sense of purpose, they won’t look out for each other. Only themselves. As a leader, it’s your job to align each of your employee’s personal goals with the company’s to make sure this doesn’t happen.
The “B” in DEIB stands for the sense of belonging employees feel when diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies are tackled. If there’s no collaboration between team members who then feel like they’re on the same page, your staff won’t enjoy their day-to-day and could struggle to hit their goals.
How To Keep Your Employees Happy and Productive
So, how do you keep your employees happy and productive to mitigate the above? It all comes down to one word: respect. And a respectful company culture starts with you as a leader.
Our research shows that when leaders and employees love their company and are part of a high-functioning work environment, 94% are 3-4x more likely to perform better and produce more for the company.
Some 95% are also 3-4x more likely to stay rather than look for other opportunities.
If you want those stats to be your reality, here are four ways you can boost employee satisfaction in your workplace:
Build DEIB into your company culture
Lead with love and recognize employees regularly
Make sure everyone has a positive vision for the future
Have genuine (not controlling) conversations
1. Build DEIB Into Your Company Culture
DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) shouldn’t be something you only talk about in job postings. It should involve meaningful strategies and policies that you implement daily.
Prioritizing these practices helps build a positive work environment where community and trust between employees is rife. Plus, between senior leadership and the wider team.
So, what are some ideas for DEIB initiatives you can start discussing?
Make candidate names on job applications anonymous to the hiring team
Conduct regular pay equity reviews to make data-driven decisions
Encourage the formation of employee resource groups (ERG)
Ensure every element of your physical and digital work environment is accessible to everyone
Train and engage all employees and management on DEIB practices to understand their importance
One final tip: any DEIB training sessions you put together should be thoughtfully designed instead of checkbox exercises. For example, unconscious bias isn’t an easy fix, but you can still work to make everyone aware of its impact.
2. Lead With Love and Recognize Employees Regularly
Leading with love isn’t anything romantic—it’s tied to both confidence and respect for your employees. Appreciating them regularly for the work they do is a huge part of that.
Some 82% of workers agree they are happier when they are recognized at work. This doesn’t have to be a huge gesture each time. Even bringing up weekly accomplishments at team meetings can be enough to help employees feel valued.
Being a good boss is all about acknowledging your employees as human beings who have certain needs. So, here are a few tips for leading with love:
Avoid micromanaging and build relationships based on trust and mutual respect
Understand your team members and each of their personal circumstances
Be prepared for tough conversations and (sometimes) negative feedback
Constantly work to improve your leadership and management skills
Offer the resources to help team members grow professionally
Encourage a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout
A surefire way to fail in business is to not invest your thought leadership and coaching in those you lead (and pay!) Don’t make that mistake.
3. Make Sure Everyone Has a Positive Vision for the Future
Everything at a company begins and ends with leadership. You may have managers working below you, but it’s your job to have the strongest vision. Then inspire everyone working for you to see how they fit into the journey and get on board.
If there’s no clear goal, employees will find it easier to become disillusioned and unmotivated. So, how do we stop this from happening?
Great managers and leaders follow the SPARK model:
Systemic collaboration: Facilitate an environment where everyone will be deeply heard and work together toward common, shared goals.
A positive vision of the future: Be clear and positive about your vision for the future. Avoid blame and focus on what you can do better.
Alignment of values: Align your core beliefs, goals, practices, and work methods.
Respect: Create a culture where it’s unacceptable to disrespect people, their ideas, or their passions.
Killer achievement: When you create a culture where everyone loves the company, killer outcomes are the only outcome.
Foster a culture of open communication, and don’t be opposed to new ideas that could be better than yours. That’s where Blockbuster went wrong—and look what happened there.
4. Have Genuine (Not Controlling) Conversations
Leadership isn’t about control. It’s about being collaborative. However, plenty of leaders and managers still choose to have one-sided conversations with their teams. When this happens, you’re not really listening to what the other person is saying, which will never be appreciated.
Self-awareness as a leader is hugely important. It’s okay to have clear expectations and big goals for your business, but make sure to allow honest feedback from your team. Let go of any ego and strive to have genuine conversations with them.
Instead of shutting down something you may not agree with, try to find out more about the idea first. You could say things like:
“Sounds like an interesting plan. How would we make that happen?”
“Do we need certain resources for this to work?”
“Let me know if I’ve got it right. You propose we…”
Decision-making can be tough—especially if it negatively impacts your team in the short term. To minimize any backlash, make sure they’re aware of the factors that led you to your choice. If you involve them along the way, they’re less likely to be blindsided and react badly to any decisions that might affect them adversely.
Employees don’t hate their jobs for no reason. Sometimes, they’re not too far gone to find enjoyment in their role again.
However, a psychologically safe workplace thrives on mutual respect. If you’re not setting your employees up for success with a positive vision for the future and practices that give everyone the same opportunities, why should they bring their best every day?
Look deeply into your own processes and ask yourself what more you could be doing for your employees. Once you max out there, you’ll know you’ve tried your best if they do decide to go. Let Most Loved Workplace® certification offer insights into your company to help build and sustain a corporate culture of respect.
Louis Carter is the founder and CEO of Best Practice Institute, Most Loved Workplace, and Results-Based Culture. Author of In Great Company, Change Champions Field Guide, and Best Practices in Talent Management, as well as a series of Leadership Development books. He is a trusted strategic advisor and coach to CEOs, CHROs, and leaders of mid-sized to F500 companies – enabling change and steering employer brand development together with highly effective teams, leaders, and organizations as a whole.