Presenteeism is the practice of turning up for work but doing the bare minimum necessary. It’s more prevalent in big companies than in small firms, but it can happen anywhere. It decreases productivity and competitiveness and leads to negative feelings among workers and complaints from customers. Robb Misso is the founder and CEO of Dynamic Manufacturing Solutions in Austin, TX. He has worked for 25 years to create manufacturing industry jobs in the United States, gaining a reputation as a compassionate and committed industry leader. Below, Mr. Misso discusses how to combat presenteeism in your workplace.
What can you do about it?
Presenteeism isn’t a modern phenomenon, though the term has only become popular in recent years. As long as there have been lazy people in the world, there have been employees who have done as little work as possible. The focus for employers used to be on combating absenteeism and making sure that people turned up for work. Of those came in when they were supposed to, some would be motivated while others needed constant monitoring.
In today’s competitive marketplace, firms can’t employ ranks of managers whose job is to harass subordinates. On the other hand, having one or two employees who aren’t giving 100% may make the difference between survival and failure for a small company.
What causes presenteeism? It can be due to unaddressed personal problems, unclear job roles, lack of engagement or a “tick-box” culture.
In the past, unaddressed personal problems might have led to absence from work, sometimes because of a physical or mental illness or stress from non-work causes. Now, employees who are ill may not wish (or be able) to take time off to recover, so they come to work but perform well below their usual standard.
Symptoms of disorders such as depression or anxiety may be harder to spot, and employees may genuinely feel that they are doing as much as they can. If they are preoccupied with non-work issues, such as a family crisis, and they can’t concentrate on the tasks they are asked to perform, they will take longer and get less done.
In all these cases, the best way to deal with the issue is to offer support. Point out that the person is performing below the standard that you expect from them and ask if anything is causing this. It’s not always possible to solve these problems, but providing support is usually more efficient than having to recruit and train another employee.
A large organization may create a job to meet a specific need, or even match a particular person. Then, as time goes on, the circumstances change or the person leaves, but the position remains. Smaller companies usually take on people as the business expands or when there’s too much work coming in for existent staff to handle. While the answer to the company’s problem might be “more staff,” it often doesn’t provide sufficient detail about what the job will include.
Jobs that are not relevant to the needs of the company or that are jack-of-all-trades posts are difficult to benchmark. If new hires are unclear about precisely what they should be doing, how are they supposed to know whether they’ve done it? Poorly defined roles don’t always lead to presenteeism, but they make it much more difficult to address.
Although there will always be some people who are lazier than others, few are lazy in every aspect of their lives. Someone may make a minimal effort when it comes to cooking but will spend hours working on their car. An employee who does the minimum required of them may be highly motivated and productive in other areas.
In this case, presenteeism may reflect a lack of engagement. The worker may not understand what their role is or how it fits with the company’s aims. They may not have linked their personal life goals with what they are doing at work, or think that what they do is not valuable or worthwhile. These issues need to be addressed during the interview and in mentoring and performance review. Asking “What do you have to offer this company?” will usually produce a generic response. Asking it during an induction phase, getting into details and then using those ideas as the basis for performance review, will help to increase engagement and decrease presenteeism.
Finally, a workplace culture that values getting the job finished over doing the job well can lead to presenteeism. Employees whose targets are quantitative instead of qualitative will do the required amount but will have little incentive to improve. Managers who ask “Have you finished yet?” rather than “Have you done it well?” encourage staff to see work tasks as something to get through, motivated solely by getting to the end of a job. That quickly becomes motivation only to get to the end of a shift or the end of the week. Work becomes something to be endured, and there’s no motivation to do more than the minimum. This kind of culture is tough to change, but shifting to qualitative outcome measures can help, as can encouraging employees to focus on what gives them satisfaction about doing their jobs.
Presenteeism is damaging to companies of all sizes. There are a variety of causes, but they can all be addressed. You may need to ask direct questions about what’s causing the problem and then offer support. You may need to make sure that jobs are clearly defined and that people feel engaged with them. Also, you will need to consider whether your company has a “just-get-it-done” culture, and if so, what steps you must take to address this.
About Robb Misso:
Robb Misso founded Dynamic Manufacturing Solutions in order to go about manufacturing differently. For 25 years, he has worked tirelessly to create a positive work culture and empower skilled workers both inside and outside the office. Robb Misso is also the recipient of Austin’s “Recognize Good Award,” which honors community-minded individuals for local charity work.
Robb Misso Around the Web:
Our CEO & Founder, Robb Misso, was featured in the John Maxwell's "Behind the Curtain: CEO Spotlight" for his ability to raise the "culture" standard in #manufacturing