According to a 2022 Gallup study, 67% of the global workforce is disengaged, feeling no connection to their work, and are less likely to be productive or loyal to their employer. That's the majority of workers! In the United States, the disengagement rate is even more at 69%.
I once knew a lady who spent most of her time watching what was going on in her office, complaining about others and the favours they seem to be getting, or the success they were having, yet lacked the courage, confidence, or self esteem to provide the motivation to make her own existence much more rewarding and significant, despite her very very competent skills. Unable to achieve what other colleagues had done, her energies were dwarfed by an envy that kept her stuck in the same mode of resentment, observing and complaining, yet impotent to change anything.
She felt she was discriminated against because she was a woman, yet didn't think she needed to do anything to change those perceptions of negativity. In her eyes, the fault lay firmly with everyone else around her. As her colleagues grew tired of her "constant carping and criticism" about the job, she gradually became isolated, while attracting like-minded folk who encouraged her victimised feelings which kept her in a state of underachievement. Perhaps there was some gender bias, in her predominantly male environment. But before we look at any kind of personal bias, the first place to look for an obstacle is inside ourselves - at our thoughts, mindset, actions and reactions, especially to the type of worker we are. Do we invite trust, confidence and reassurance in our approach?
There are basically four types of employees in the workplace: proactive, reactive, indifferent, and resentful, and each type tends to get different results.
Proactive people tend to take the initiative and responsibility for their work, without being asked. They are always thinking ahead and looking for ways to improve things. Proactive employees are typically self-motivated, self-sufficient, and goal-oriented and not afraid to act. Their hallmark is personal confidence, strong can-do self-belief, and high self esteem. They are likely to believe anything is possible, and many are natural leaders who will take the reins whenever there is a power vacuum. They tend to be innovators who can't wait to develop an idea; the ones who suggest solutions to problems; and who don't wait to be asked to complete a task. Thus they are able to adapt to change and new challenges more flexibly than others.
Being proactive, they are likely to attract the most attention, hence getting many of the available responsibilities, whether they are really competent or not, because they exude the confidence to do them. Proactive workers are largely successful in their lives because they don't see barriers or obstacles. They see only opportunities and solutions, and enjoy making their own decisions. The main downside with proactive colleagues is that they can be seen as 'pushy', their efforts are often perceived to be for their own gain, and many are not the best team players.
Reactive employees are the opposite. They tend to wait for things to happen before they act; to be certain they are doing the right things. They are typically good at responding to problems and crises, but they may not be as proactive in identifying and addressing potential issues before they occur.
- Some characteristics of reactive employees include:
- Waiting for instructions or requests before taking action.
- Focusing on completing tasks rather than thinking strategically about their work.
- Having some difficulty prioritising tasks and managing their time.
- Being hesitant to take risks or try new things.
- More likely to make mistakes when they are under pressure.
They prefer to follow orders closely, to show their skills and competence, though not to take the ultimate responsibility, and are often more comfortable seeking approval and recognition for their contributions than being at the forefront as shining lights. They make very good team workers, because their doubts about themselves tend to keep them in the shadow of others, and also away from any blame when things go wrong. They are often unsure of what they want from their jobs, which keeps them accepting only what is offered, instead of carving out a clear career path for themselves.
Being rather conscientious, this type of employee is likely to be very aware of what is happening around them, and the 'fairness' of decisions relating to their situation, especially if they are working very hard for the good of the business/service and are not being recognised for it. This tends to keep them in some resentment at being denied their real worth, though that does not affect the level of productivity or loyalty they exhibit, despite the insecurity they might feel at a lack of recognition. The main problem with being reactive is that someone else is always making the decision regarding that person's input, and progress, which can create a very insecure and frustrating experience for them.
Indifferent workers are just that. For whatever reason, whether as an emotional barrier to protect themselves from failure and rejection, or because the job is just a means to earn a living, these employees are indifferent to what is going on around them. They do not show much interest in their work or workplace, often going through the motions of their job, because they are not motivated to go above and beyond expectations of them. Indifferent employees may also have a negative attitude or be withdrawn from their colleagues.
There are a number of reasons why an employee might be indifferent. Some common causes include:
- Lack of engagement: These employees may not feel connected to their work or team. They may not see the meaning in their work or feel that their contributions are valued.
- Poor working conditions: The employee may be working in a stressful or unhealthy environment were they may be overworked or underpaid.
- Personal problems: He/She may be going through personal problems that are affecting their work performance.
- Poor management: This worker may have a bad manager who does not provide them with the support or resources they need.
Indifferent workers have little interest in responsibility, being advanced, being noticed, or taking the initiative, though their indifferent approach can often be a demotivating force for their reactive colleagues. Indifferent workers get their feeling of significance by making decisions that benefit themselves first, without thought of anyone else gaining from their action. In fact, some indifferent workers might even quietly sabotage the goals and expectations of others in order to get their own way, and keep their sense of control intact. However, in the end, that indifference is often counter productive as it does not really endear them to their colleagues, or give them the security they might secretly crave. Sadly, indifferent employees can have a negative impact on a workplace. They can reduce productivity, increase absenteeism and turnover, and create a toxic work environment.
At the other end of the continuum, the resentful worker is likely to have had unpleasant experiences in her/his job, and blames everyone else for their misfortune. A resentful employee is someone who harbours negative feelings towards their job, employer, or coworkers, and this resentment can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:
- Feeling undervalued or underpaid;
- Being passed over for promotions or opportunities;
- Experiencing unfair treatment or discrimination;
- Having a heavy workload or long hours;
- Working in a toxic or stressful work environment.
Resentful employees can be disruptive and unproductive. They may be more likely to take sick days, quit their jobs, engage in sabotage or be less likely to go the extra mile or help their colleagues.
The hallmark of resentful workers is fear and insecurity. Lacking in self-belief, confidence, and the motivation to be proactive, they spend most of their time being the 'victim', finding various reasons why they have not been successful as others, or have been bypassed in the process. They feel bad about themselves and their progress, but the the more resentful they are, the less they seem to offer their employer, or colleagues, and the more their situation revolves in a vicious circle of negativity, neglect, and underachievement.
Resentful workers tend to have few solutions to enhance their work life, as they are likely to feel impotent about changing their situation in a positive way. Gradually, their resentment becomes entrenched, as fuel to their sense of bias, robbing their efforts of the worth and recognition they deserve. The lady I mentioned at the beginning is a classic case of this type of worker - wanting her qualification and skills to be recognised, yet lacking the self belief, self-esteem, and confidence to make it happen, which kept her stuck in the same unattractive groove of resentment and envy.
How we feel inside ourselves is the first important step to what we achieve in our lives and work. If we are only focused on others in a negative way, we are likely to be missing the opportunities to develop ourselves, too; to examine where we could improve our skills and approach, or to review what we are really seeking to make us happy and fulfilled.
In a situation of scarce resources and opportunities, which typifies the modern workplace, it is easy to begrudge what happens to others. But if you don't know what you want, if you're not ready to take the responsibility for your own progress, if you lack self-belief and are dominated by fear, feeling reluctant to make the necessary decisions to benefit you, unfortunately, someone else will always make those decisions for you.
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About the Creator
British Empowerment Coach/Public speaker/DEI Consultant. Author: The New Theory of Confidence and 7 Steps To Finding And Keeping 'The One'!. Graduate/Doctor of Open Univ; Postgrad Cambridge Univ. Keen on motivation, relationships and books.