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Updated Mar 22, 2024

How You May Be Alienating Your Employees (and How to Stop)

Keep your employees engaged and invested with proactive strategies.

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Written By: Max FreedmanBusiness Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Employers who want to reduce employee turnover should ensure their team members are interested in and engaged with their work. You probably already know this from experience. Remember the first job you ever disliked – or worse, hated? How did your negative feelings toward the job affect your work? You likely put in less effort because you didn’t care as much, leading to lower-quality output.

Now that you’re on the other side of the table as an employer, you’re in a position to help employees like their jobs more by giving them space to express themselves beyond their daily tasks. Without this sensitivity and attention, you risk alienating your employees and experiencing all the consequences that come with that.

What is alienation in the workplace?

Alienation in the workplace is a sense of disassociation, isolation or disconnection some employees feel while on the job. Their sense of individuality is diminished, and they lose their voice and independence. They may feel like they’re just another cog in the wheel.

With workplace alienation, employees become emotionally separated from others and their own feelings. This phenomenon can creep up without the employee or manager even realizing it.

Want to understand how your employees feel? Try presenting an employee survey to help your team share concerns and offer an inside perspective anonymously.

What are the types of alienation?

Alienation comes in several forms, all damaging an employee’s morale and the overall company culture:

  • Alienation from production: This type of alienation happens when the workers don’t see the final product they’re involved in making; instead, they focus only on a piece of the product. As a result, they don’t understand their role in the bigger process.
  • Alienation from the act of production: This type of alienation happens when an employee is given only a set of instructions to complete; they’re unaware of the entire process. The employee never has a role in a project’s vision or plan, and they’re made to feel that those who create the vision are an elite class.
  • Alienation from themselves: By nature, people aspire to creativity and want to implement their creative ideas. When this isn’t an option, they may experience alienation from themselves. This type of alienation happens when people feel they can’t be themselves.
  • Alienation from others: This type of alienation tends to happen when workers specialize in a small piece of a larger whole. While it may be suitable for employees to have a specialty, there’s a danger of employees feeling like they’re in a thankless job. They also may feel they’re missing out on bonding with others.

How companies alienate employees – and how to stop it

Companies alienate employees in many ways, sometimes without even realizing it. That’s why it’s essential to pay attention to the signs your employees give you.

Here are some ways you may be alienating your employees and how to correct the issue before things get out of hand:

1. Keeping employees in the dark

  • The problem: Management keeps employees in the dark and doesn’t share pertinent information, causing alienation. 
  • The solution: Whenever feasible, give your staff updates on the company’s financial performance (of course, it’s not necessary to share your in-depth accounting reports) and long- and short-term goals. Explain what this information means for them and their jobs. Being in the loop will help employees feel more connected to the organization.

2.mNot asking for employees’ input

  • The problem: Managers and leaders don’t consult employees about issues or future plans. Workers may not feel empowered to speak their minds because their bosses don’t solicit employee feedback. Employees may be reluctant to volunteer an honest opinion if their boss isn’t asking for it.
  • The solution: Actively seek and gather honest employee feedback from your team members. Maintain an open-door policy and an open mind to make it easy for employees to approach you. Encourage other managers and company leaders to do the same. You should also reach out to employees who may be uncomfortable voicing their thoughts to ensure their ideas are heard.

3. Not giving sufficient input

  • The problem: Managers don’t pay appropriate attention to employees. Beyond an annual performance review, employees have no idea how their work is received. 
  • The solution: A performance review once a year is not enough to evaluate and track employee performance properly. Managers should frequently communicate with employees and hold regular one-on-one meetings. Employees should understand what they’re doing well and what they need to improve. 
Did You Know?Did you know
Giving successful constructive criticism can be challenging. However, when done right, it can foster greater trust and improve individual and organizational performance.

4. Not encouraging professional development

  • The problem: Management keeps employees boxed into specific roles. They don’t expect or encourage growth.  
  • The solution: Actively encourage your staff members to pursue professional development and take on new responsibilities and projects. This approach gives team members a chance to build confidence and achieve greater things.

5. Ignoring employees’ goals

  • The problem: Management doesn’t know or care about individual employee career goals.
  • The solution: Talk to your team members about their ambitions and help them set and achieve career goals. It’s crucial for employees to set career goals to feel they’re working toward a larger objective, and it’s just as critical for the company to support its employees’ professional aspirations.

6. Working employees too hard

  • The problem: Management doesn’t concern itself with employee workloads. Leaders don’t notice or evaluate how hard team members work.
  • The solution: Aside from monitoring reasonable workloads, remind your workers to take regular employee breaks to recharge, and set a good example by taking breaks yourself. When your team seems particularly stressed, encourage practices that reduce workplace stress, such as taking a collective breather with snacks or providing a catered lunch.

7. Playing favorites

  • The problem: Management shows clear favoritism toward specific employees, destroying company morale.
  • The solution: Strive to treat employees equally and distribute work fairly. You may not realize you’re giving more opportunities and recognition to particular employees, so make a conscious effort to give everyone a fair chance.

8. Not valuing employees

  • The problem: Management shows no outward appreciation toward the team. 
  • The solution: Find creative ways to show employee appreciation, such as giving raises and bonuses when possible, publicly praising employees for their work, and expressing gratitude on social media. Recognizing even small contributions will help employees feel appreciated; they’ll care more about their work and put in more effort.

9. Not including remote employees 

  • The problem: Remote employees are disconnected from the in-person team and continually feel out of the loop. 
  • The solution: Host team-building activities and give your remote workforce the tools they need to stay in touch with the team.
The best remote work tools, like Slack, Zoom and Convene, can help you keep your remote workforce connected and engaged.

10. Not supporting personal time 

  • The problem: Employees can’t recharge properly because taking personal time isn’t encouraged. Some managers may even reprimand employees who take time off. 
  • The solution: Employers must treat employees like human beings, not just workers. If one isn’t already in place, create a paid time off (PTO) policy and encourage its use. Give employees generous holidays and sick days, and be flexible when they have emergencies. Additionally, consider offering the option of at-home work if employees must attend to childcare or other personal obligations.

What does alienation do to an employee?

When employees feel alienated from their managers and co-workers, they can feel like nameless cogs in the machine, not essential elements of a successful organization. It’s hard to develop loyalty to an organization that doesn’t value you.

Alienation can have the following effects on employees and businesses:

  • Poor motivation and morale: Employees who feel disconnected from work suffer diminished motivation and may experience burnout. Their work quality will suffer – along with your bottom line.
  • Greater employee turnover: Alienated workers will likely find another position, increasing your employee turnover rate and diminishing your company’s reputation. Additionally, exiting employees take valuable knowledge with them.
  • Lower productivity: Alienated employees who don’t leave for new jobs will likely become less productive because they don’t feel connected to their work. Lowered productivity can have massive ramifications for your business.
  • Worse hiring prospects: People who dislike their jobs may share their thoughts with friends and professional connections. Your company may have fewer opportunities to attract and retain top talent if it has a reputation for treating its team members poorly. 

From alienated to amicable

Nobody is saying you have to be best friends with everyone you hire, but you and your team should at least share a meaningful connection. This connection should, of course, include a shared passion for doing your work well, but it can also include mutual interests outside your organization. When your employees connect with both you and what they do every day, everyone wins.

Kylie Ora Lobell and Chad Brooks contributed to this article.

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Written By: Max FreedmanBusiness Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Max Freedman has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
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