Playful businessman aiming paper airplane at serious co-worker

By Barron Rosborough

We’ve all heard stories about the “employee from hell.”

Let’s call him, Greg.

Greg shows up to work late more often than not (if at all). Greg doesn’t take responsibility for his mistakes. Greg finds ways to pass his workload onto his coworkers. Greg takes a bite out of your sandwich and puts it back in the fridge.

When you’ve reached your wit’s end with Greg, you may ask yourself why you hired him in the first place. In Greg’s case, you’d be right to send him packing – I mean, he ate your lunch, sort of. However, many of this employee’s issues may not have been a result of a bad hire. Rather, the problem may have its roots in a breakdown in engagement, a problem that might easily be solved with some attention to team building.

It’s important to note that Greg is just an example of an employee on the far end of a wide spectrum. So, if you’re a “Greg” reading this, I have nothing against you nor your ilk.

Greg’s problem (even the sandwich thing) could be a problem that many employees and employers face. The world over companies are failing miserably at keeping their employees engaged, with a Gallup study reporting that a whopping 87% of employees aren’t engaged with their work and 24% of all workers are actively disengaged – costing UK employers between £52 billion and £70 billion a year.

How do you keep your employees from becoming Greg? First, you have to be able to identify where and why Gregs are spawning within your organization. Here are nine things to look for when you’re trying to identify the conditions that lead to Greg:

1. A Simple Lack of Effort

Most aren’t lazy, they’re uninspired and it shows in their work. If your team members don’t take the initiative to go above and beyond what’s expected, it’s likely a sign that there’s a disconnect in how those employees see their contributions in relation to the company’s goals.

2. Interoffice Friendships

If your employees don’t seek to extend their relationships with coworkers beyond the office, that may be a symptom of a larger issue. Camaraderie between colleagues and peers leads to a happier and more productive workforce.

3. Mixed-up Priorities

Tough to spot, yet arguably one of the most important symptoms of poor engagement is having employees that care about titles and advancement more than the work. You’ll still have productive teams, but they’re more likely to create a sense of isolation and less likely to contribute to the growth of others.

4. They’re Blind to the Company’s Vision

Your company’s vision isn’t resonating with your employees. Their goals aren’t directly tied to the company’s objectives and they’re having a hard time finding motivation in the “why”.

5. No Pride

Your employees don’t seem to have pride in where they work and what they’re doing. It doesn’t take a big leap of faith to assert that the people working for you are your best evangelists. Often times they know the product more intimately than anyone else and their livelihood depends upon communicating that to customers, but you don’t want it to stop there.

6. The Customer Doesn’t Come First

Your employees see the customer as a burden, rather than an opportunity to help improve the work and life of the person on the other side of the transaction. One bad customer experience can do a lot of damage to your company’s reputation.

7. No Initiative

Their only contributions are reactive. They don’t seek to create opportunities for growth, they wait until prompted. They do what they’re told, but lack the empowerment to innovate or take ideas further.

8. Indifference toward the Company’s Well-Being

Your team members aren’t interested in knowing what’s happening with the company outside of the scope of their work. They don’t participate in company learning sessions that don’t directly contribute to their day-to-day; another symptom of not seeing the bigger picture.

9. Personal Development Takes a Back Seat

Employees don’t seek out opportunities to grow and enhance their skills. They come in, do their job, and they leave. They don’t see the benefit is personal growth and how that relates to professional growth.

How do you fix this? Here’s the simple tip that Greg doesn’t want you to know. It’s all a matter of building a culture that counteracts poor engagement by emphasizing communication, transparency, friendship, trust, and value. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Team building activities are the tool that can help you cultivate and reinforce a strong team bond and company culture, creating a more productive environment, free of Greg’s influence.

Barron Rosborough is a seasoned digital marketer and writer from Los Angeles, CA. He writes on topics ranging from wellness to leadership (and everything in between). He is currently the Digital Marketing Coordinator at SnackNation, a curated healthy snack subscription service for offices and homes.