In a discussion on the damaging affects of employee disengagement, we’ve so far covered the 12 questions to gauge employee satisfaction, along with recruitment (or better known as the art of attracting the right kind of employees off the bat). The Gallup report on employee disengagement that we’re sourcing as the basis of our understanding of employee dissatisfaction spans 25 million employees in 189 countries, with the reports primary aim being to find “the best predictors of employee and workgroup performance.” Out of the depth of questions asked, performance, communication, and flexibility topped the charts when it comes to workplace pitfalls.

Step 2: Performance

A Harvard Business Review blog post titled “The Relationship Between Anxiety and Performance,” cast a powerful reminder on how even the most powerful athletes tend to choke in a performance. Some people simply “disintegrate” under pressure – the cause of which is sometimes physiological but mostly psychologically derived when an individual is trying to “monitor” performance. The solution is to dislocate from a standpoint of performance and rather engage in auto-piloting performance. You might recall the epic failure rates associated with when we feel like someone is looking over our shoulder, a feeling triggered by a sense of monitoring. The key here is to redirect the brain to focus on the mechanics rather than the performance. For bosses, this means worrying less about whether someone looks like they’re working and more about what kind of results they’re producing.

Step 3: Communication

In light of the progressive communications thrust, a conversation on communication would likely encompass a pow-wow with your team members to discuss company policies on mobile phone usage, cloud platforms, social media, and the sort. However, here I mean something completely different. I’m talking about the elephant in the room situation that dissolves even the best of employees and that’s “quiet politeness”. Inc had a great article on this called “Want Successful Office Communication? Avoid This,” which called out quiet politeness as “the root of team and interpersonal communication destruction.” Simply put, as with any environment where groups of different personalities are locked in a shared space and place under relative daily stress, there is bound to be some discord and tension. You may even just start hating people for insignificant nuances. That’s totally fine. What isn’t fine is how we’re expected to politely quiet ourselves and act professional despite these naturally occurring human emotions. The article in Inc. recommends a five step course of action, but personally I feel that creating an environment where you can vent is most beneficial. Team leaders can do this through cultivating humor and encouraging natural social opportunities for employees to mingle socially and express themselves naturally. When these natural channels are blocked by politeness is when you start seeing undercurrents of gossip and resentment – and inevitable employee disengagement.

Step 4: Flexibility

Freedom was cited as a number one reason for the “10 Reasons Employees Really Care About Their Jobs”. Published by Inc Magazine, the article noted that while it’s important to have authority, “true responsibility comes from feeling not just in charge but encouraged and empowered to do what is right – and to do what is right in the way the individual feels is best.” In other words, “give me a task to do and I’ll do it. Tell me it’s mine, and tell me to use my best judgment to get it done, and I’ll embrace it. I’ll care because you trust me.”

Offering control is also seen as a valuable retention and performance incentive. I’ve seen this strategy first hand as being wildly successful in a case where an overbearing unreasonably demanding Fortune 500 boss in one of the world’s most lucrative industries, use it to gain the respect and dedication of his more than willing team. Granting employee autonomy also automates recognizing task-mongers from leaders – the discriminate rising leaders from employees that are just there to check of a list of duties.

The Golden Rule for Employee Satisfaction

Stressing the value of employee recognition, the Gallup report highlighted the benefit of praise over monetary reward, citing that 88%-76% would prefer praise and recognition from leadership and peers respectively over just 14% who would prefer to be recognized with a reward or gift over a $1000 value. However, recognition is the last stage employee engagement. The first three are: (1) making sure employees know what is expected of them at work, (2) giving employees the best tools to be successful at their job, and (3) ensuring them that their opinions matter. For the latter, the report recommends an enterprise social network. I recommend Yapmo, a social enterprise solution that allows employees to cast their solutions and empowers their peers to judge them democratically; winning ideas are pushed forward to management while less favorable ideas naturally die out without any management interference. Since employees are the first line of defense in brand management, it makes perfect sense to invest in your employee satisfaction. In fact, a Forrester “Benefits Strategy and Technology Study” shows that a return-on-employees yields a calculable return-on-investment: every 2% increase in employee satisfaction relates to a 1% increase in employee retention.