Acting on some visible signs of unproductivity

In a fast-paced work environment, what exactly counts as unproductive behaviour?

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Several factors can breed unproductive behavior, which is difficult to quantify, as employee functions affect the weighing of productivity versus unproductivity.

It is easy to blame the employees and most often organisations thrust solutions for low rates of output. That’s where they go wrong. Without understanding the root causes of the issue, offering solutions will not restore productivity.

Master of excuses

When something goes downhill, some employees always manage to come up with an excuse, like honed magicians. Whether they conjure a personal excuse or shift the blame to a third party, such employees are masters of this art.

At times, the excuse seems too genuine. Therefore, it is imperative for employers to establish a pattern before diagnosing the problem. This behaviour can build up, if adequate guidance and support is not provided in the initial phase of their joining.

“Mentoring and coaching need to take place in tandem to ensure that the employees being hired for their roles perform their duty,” says Gautam Srivastava, head – talent management, performance and engagement, HDFC ERGO General Insurance. He suggests allowing employees at least 90 days to settle in and adjust to their roles before tracking unproductivity.

Collective behaviour impacts the whole team. That’s why, one needs to put together heterogeneous teams comprising a combination of different kinds of people.

Anurag Verma, vice president – HR, Uniphore

Erratic leaves

This is one of the most visible key factors of tracing unproductive behaviour. Employees are seen taking ad hoc leaves and missing important meetings without notifying the concerned authorities. Every employee is different and some need more hand-holding than their peers. While it is difficult to ascertain their needs in the initial days of joining, drilling the company policies and encouraging them to reach out can help avoid ad hoc absenteeism.

If an employee keeps taking frequent leaves, evaluating the cause behind the need for sudden leaves is a good place to start. Taking into account their personal situation and past behaviour, with the quality of work produced will give more clarity in dealing with the situation.

If a manager’s outlook is very negative, this negativity is bound to cascade down to the team members and kill employee morale.

Gautam Srivastava, head – talent management, performance and engagement, HDFC ERGO General Insurance

Visibly disengaged

Typical signs of disengagement manifest in constant complaining, not taking initiatives at work and exhibiting low enthusiasm towards completing tasks. The energy people project at work, on a daily basis, is more visible in those who are outgoing — the so-called extroverts.

Rahul Sinha, CHRO, Pidilite, opines, “Demotivation may be episodic. If one is unable to finish one’s job on a particular day or finds it difficult to do so, one will be demotivated.”

The drop in energy or visible signs of a well-performing employee turning into a lackadaisical one happens over time. Companies need to be finely tuned to their employees’ needs and address disengagement before they spiral into bigger concerns. A study conducted by Hay Group in the early 2000s shows that employees who enjoy their jobs tend to be 43 per cent more productive.

Demotivation may be episodic. If one is unable to finish one’s job on a particular day or finds it difficult to do so, one will be demotivated.

Rahul Sinha, CHRO, Pidilite

Frequent breaks

Is an employee taking more breaks than usual and cutting corners at work? Taking into account the past behaviour of such employees, managers should ensure they understand the organisational values and optimise the breaks they take accordingly.

Anurag Verma, vice president – HR, Uniphore, adds, “It’s a general characteristic of human behaviour that collective behaviour impacts the team. That’s why, one needs to put together heterogeneous teams comprising a combination of all sorts of people.”

An accountable, heterogeneous team with the right balance of outgoing, star achievers and average performers will pull up overall morale. It will also encourage the ones who are slacking to get back on track. A sore thumb will be easier to notice in a group rather than in a sea of employees.

Stretching deadlines

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why an employee or team keeps stretching deadlines. At times, employees can have too much on their plates, or the tasks at hand may appear to them as a complicated or jumbled mess.

It can also be a case of miscommunication or a lack of it. The linkages in an organisation need to be in sync and missing deadlines or a lack of deadlines will encourage procrastination and jeopardise output for the company in the long run.

“At the end of the day, it is all about the kind of behaviour one exhibits. For instance, if a manager’s outlook is very negative, it is bound to cascade down to the teams and finally kill employee morale,” says Srivastava.

As for employees struggling to talk to managers, colleagues are the next best thing for self-assessment. This will arrest any sign of unproductivity, which may be unconsciously building up. Frequent reviews by the company and encouraging open communication will nip the problem of unproductivity in the bud.

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