It's easy to tell when employees are completely checked out of their jobs. They show up late (or not at all), complain about simple tasks, and produce subpar results when asked to do something. It's also easy to tell when employees are truly dedicated to their work. They work hard, always offer a helping hand, and go above and beyond what's expected in any given situation.
But what about the employees who fall somewhere in the middle — the ones who blend in because they aren't failing, but aren't doing a stand-out job? How can a leader identify the level of commitment of these workers?
"People and their relationship with the company [are essential] to its success," said Gershon Mader, founder and president of management consulting firm Quantum Performance Inc. "At the core of that is how committed people are. Are they committed? Merely compliant? Surviving to keep a job? It's so critical to have every person, no matter what level or function, really be committed to the company."
It's important that leaders learn to recognize the telltale signs of an employee who isn't fully committed to the company. [Want to Keep Your New Hires? 5 Ways to Reduce Turnover]
"It's different manifestations of people not bringing their 'A game' to work," Mader told Business News Daily. "They'll behave and play the game to avoid getting in trouble, but when you look closer, you'll see that they come to meetings but don't speak up. They give excuses and blame others. They find ways to do the minimum they need to do, whatever they can get away with."
Mader said that leaders in many organizations accept mere compliance: They allow employees to be just "good enough" to get the job done adequately, but don't demand any more than that. Getting to the root of this problem — and perhaps even changing your leadership style — is the key to instilling a spirit of commitment across your entire team.
"If a leader really wants to create a strong commitment, it has to start from the top," Mader said. "[You need to] promote an environment where people can speak about things in an open and courageous way, where people can celebrate successes but give criticism and feedback about the leaders and managers themselves. When people feel like there's an environment like this, they feel more committed."
While leaders shouldn't tolerate excuses or blame-shifting from their teams, it should also be acceptable for people to commit to things and fail, Mader said. If and when there are failures, a manager must deal with it in an empowering way and encourage the employee to try again, rather than punish him or her for not producing the desired results.
Finally, Mader advised checking the language of "compliance" and "survival" at the door, and being more conscious of the way you phrase things with your team.
"There's a certain language to commitment and accountability," he said. "It's one where people make requests and promises that are accepted or declined and counteroffered. Effective teams have less of the stories, excuses and explanations, and more of a 'Yes, I can do this' dynamic. It makes a huge difference."
Originally published on Business News Daily.