Are Workplace Prisoners Holding You Hostage? 4 Tips to Break Free and Experience Incredible Engagement!

Workplace-prisonerIn a recent report from Training & Development magazine, it was found that 8% of the global workforce is made up of what Aon Hewitt termed “workplace prisoners” — actively disengaged employees who have nothing positive to say about their company, yet have no desire to leave it. Even though it is may seem easy to dismiss this relatively low number of people, leaders cannot ignore it!

Why should leaders be aware of workplace prisoners?

These individuals can be extremely dangerous to the entire workplace! Not only is their work marginal at best; these individuals actively recruit other employees to join them in spreading negative energy and information throughout the company. New talent can be targeted and infected, and creativity and initiative among all team members damaged irreparably. And the kicker? Workplace prisoners tend to be more likely to stay with their organization than the average employee! This is why leaders must take the initiative to break free of their hold!

How can Leaders Deal with Workplace Prisoners? Four Powerful Tips:

MagnifyingGlass-workplacePrisonersKnow how to spot them, so you can deal with them quickly! According to research from the Wall Street Journal, the highest percentage of workplace prisoners are long-term employees who receive higher than the norm salaries. A higher percentage fall in the  hourly pay category, but all pay categories can have workplace prisoners hiding out. As a leader, be aware of these demographics — but also keep your eyes and ears open for signs of discontent, negative comments, and unexpected slowdowns in work progress among teams.


Mentoring-MindsetAdopt a Mentoring Mindset. You may be tempted to jump right into corrective action, but interestingly, less than half of workplace prisoners report that their manager provides encouragement to do their best. In one of our client organizations, we helped leaders strengthen their Mentoring Mindset, and guided them to provide specific one-on-one coaching with five identified workplace prisoners. The results were incredible! In three cases, the employees who were subpar in performance actually vaulted into the category of exceptional, transforming their work habits, conversations, and interactions with other employees. 



Provide Ongoing Performance Feedback to Everyone. Too often performance appraisal is seen as a once-a-year phenomena that wears everyone out and provides no useful purpose. Instead, begin to see performance feedback as an ongoing daily part of your job. Be sure each employee is aware of the expectations for their job, and has the tools and resources to complete those expectations. Regular check-ups and touch-base sessions can help you spot problems while they are still small and manageable, and it takes away the excuses that may be used.


world-opendoor-bird-ca20838815Bite the bullet and set the workplace prisoners free. There comes a moment when you have to take a serious look at the situation and determine whether this employee is salvageable or not. Get familiar with your company’s policies on termination; schedule time with Human Resources to ensure you are following the appropriate protocols (Note: Please do this early in the game! Don’t make the mistake of leaving HR out of the conversation!); take the necessary steps to set this employee free. Your engaged employees will be overjoyed!


Check out our blog for other tips to help you ‘Power Up Your Engagement!”


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