The silent cost of disenchantment

What happens to an organisation when its employees are disenchanted? 

Disenchantment levels will often differ drastically throughout an organisation. There are some people who are free of cynicism and indignation.  Their infectious smile, positive disposition, and humorous anecdotes make them a delight to have around. 

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Jtip has developed our measure of disenchantment to identify ‘management swamps’ that were leaving employees embittered, jaded, and seeking retribution. 

Since then, we have been pushing to discover how disenchantment manifests and how it causes problems for employees and organisations. And we think have found something that will make your board members sit up straight.

You know that if you are in need of a laugh, or just want a light-hearted break for 15 minutes, that they are the person to go to. But you are not the only one with this idea. Others in the workplace who equally want to bask in the jovial glow of their quips and comments rendezvous at this employee’s desk or congregate to where they are stood in the kitchen-area.

We know this ‘flocking’ phenomenon to be true. Our recent research has shown that those who are trusted, fairly treated, and respected attract others to them in the organisation. It also has a big impact on how information is spread.

Those who want to be enchanted at work seek the advice of the enchanted, communicating with them more frequently, and are more likely to consider them a friend. And the feeling is mutual – the happy-go-lucky individuals are more likely to seek out others who they believe to have outlooks that are similar to theirs.

But what of the disenchanted? The employees that are disaffected and resentful towards their organisation? They certainly have no interest in those who believe the organisation is fair and just. Our research shows that when the disenchantment levels between two individuals are disparate, communications break down. They rarely ask each other for help or advice, avoid contact, and definitely do not consider their relationship anything more than trivial.

Importantly, the disenchanted do not just stew in solitary. There is an assumption in HR that the jaded are lone wolves, keeping to themselves as well as being left alone by other employees. They are though to just gently stew in solitary, with the occasional muttered comment of discontent. But this is not the case.

When looking at advice networks, the disenchanted cluster together. As with the enchanted, the disenchanted attract other like-minded individuals to them. Disenchantment can form pockets that are hard to break up. As the disenchanted congregate, their symptoms worsen.

But how does this work on a higher level? If disenchantment effects how individuals interact, can it affect whole departments? In organisations where communication between disparate departments is vital, disenchantment can have a powerful derailing effect.

Information flows freely within the enchanted and disenchanted, but there are very little pathways out into the rest of the organisation. If enchantment levels vary dramatically across departments, offices, or the organisation as a whole, effective communication starts to fail.

Take, for instance, the impact this would have on a small financial services firm. Sales and Analysts need to communicate. Analysts need to relay their new research to the sales team for it to be marketed to clients.

And sales need to interact with the analysts to answer the technical questions that their clients have. If the Sales team are severely disenchanted, the communication breaks down. The Analysts will no longer want to actively interact with them; they will only do it when they have to. Until then, Analysts will remain in their cubicles talking amongst themselves.

But what is the cost of this disrupted dialogue within your company? When enchantment levels differ so dramatically across departments, we found it to have an adverse impact on how much profit is made.

When consulting, we have been able to predict (with a large amount of accuracy) the amount of revenue a department will generate for their organisation based on how their enchantment levels compare with other departments. When they are similar, they create significantly more profit for their company.

These departments want to interact, collaborate, and secure new clients. They are happy to have conversations about things other than work, and end up interacting more as a result. Their frequent and friendly interaction leads successful and profitable business. Yet, when disenchantment levels are disparate, this cohesive working environment falls away.

Disenchantment is more than identifying management swamps. It is more than identifying and rectifying areas where insider threat may emerge. It influences how your organisation interacts, connects, and collaborates.

And this can have a big impact. If teams are communicating frequently, you tap into the full range of talent and skill that your company has to offer. Yet, when a key element of your organisation is resentful and angry, this all comes to a halt. And the cost to your bottom line could be more than you expect.



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