Why Good Employees Go Bad

Let’s talk about employee engagement.

According to Gallup, only 34% of U.S. workers are engaged and enthusiastic about their jobs and companies. And, it’s a number that hasn’t changed much in the past 18 years.

So, what’s engagement and why should we care?

Well, engaged employees are better employees. These are the people who care the most and routinely go above-and-beyond for their organizations.

They are your BEST employees!

Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break All the Rules, defines engaged employees as having “a positive state of mind characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption”

He goes further to explain…

Vigor is the willingness to invest in work with high levels of conscientiousness, persistence, energy, and mental toughness.

Dedication just means being connected to work, experiencing a sense of significance, pride, enthusiasm, and challenge.

Absorption describes how deeply involved in their work these employees are. For them, time passes quickly and disconnecting from work is difficult.

OK. That makes sense.

So, it’s in our best interest as leaders to create and maintain a high level of engagement in our organizations. We will be more successful when we are surrounded by engaged and dedicated employees.

We will be more successful when we are surrounded by engaged and dedicated employees. Click To Tweet

Got it.

So, what are we doing wrong? Why are 60-70% of employees disengaged and disinterested?

And…why does this affect even our BEST employees?

Let’s review some of the causes:

  1. Good employees become disengaged when managers don’t listen to their ideas and concerns. This is especially true for new employees!
  2. Good employees become disillusioned when managers allow circumstances to compromise the mission. When the actions of management don’t support the mission, good employees get frustrated.
  3. Good employees become disenfranchised when managers are disengaged and disconnected. Disengaged managers create disengaged employees.
  4. Good employees lose trust in their organization when their manager’s actions don’t match their words. A recent ADP study shows that employees who trust their manager are 12X more engaged!
  5. Good employees get frustrated when bad employees are not held accountable. Whether you like it or not, this is true.

I like this quote from Hilton Barbour: “Your culture is defined by the worst behavior tolerated by leadership.”

“Your culture is defined by the worst behavior tolerated by leadership.” Hilton Barbour Click To Tweet

The final thing I would add on this topic is something from my good friend, John Brubaker, over at CoachBru.com. Speaking to great employees, he said…

Go where you’re celebrated not where you’re tolerated.”

As leaders, I would say, if you don’t want your best employees to become disengaged, frustrated, and disconnected, you need to celebrate them!

And if you don’t what that means…

Go get a copy of my latest book – “I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following”  Chapter 10 is all about Celebrating Employees!

That’s it for today

Think about this topic this week. What are you doing as a leader to keep your BEST employees engaged?

If can keep them engaged and happy, you will be a more effective leader.


By the way, If you want to get more out of your daily commute, listen to my podcastDeep Leadership.  It’s available on all podcast apps.

And my best-selling leadership book, I Have the Watch, is also available on Audible for your commuting pleasure.

Employee Motivation Starts Here

In the movie Criminal, Kevin Costner plays a convict whom the CIA chooses for an experimental procedure.  With the help of a top neuroscientist and researcher, they “transplant” the memories of an operative killed in the field – with hopes of stopping a terrorist attack.

This has unintended consequences.

(The subject, a hardened killer named ‘Jericho’, forms an attachment for the dead agent’s wife and daughter for example.)

Initially, the procedure doesn’t completely “take”.

Jericho refuses to cooperate and escapes.

He “remembers” a bag of cash the CIA guy hid and goes on the hunt for it. Frustrated, the CIA talks to the doctor who performed the surgery. He tells them, “He’s fixated on this bag of money…show him how to get it and he’ll do anything you want.”  They do, and he does, until the bad guys complicate the plot, of course.

Legendary motivator Zig Ziglar is famous for saying:

“You can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help other people get what they want.”

“You can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar Click To Tweet

What this scene in Criminal illustrates is…

Everything starts with KNOWING what other people want!

Let’s bring this back to employees. I’m a big fan of being present and spending time with employees. Many business people chafe at this. It’s time-consuming and doesn’t add value, they’ll argue. But I disagree.

I make it a policy to spend as much time as possible with my team.

I ask open-ended questions and listen.  Not only does this help the person feel heard, but it opens a window into their inner world. It helps me know exactly what they need in order to do their best work.

It can work for you as well. Listen with the intent to understand your people better.

And help them get want they need to succeed.

You’ll know it’s working when you notice a pattern of employees going beyond the call of duty for you and your organization.

Speaking about helping other people get what they want…

If you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift this year, consider giving my Amazon bestselling book I Have The Watch. It distills best practices gleaned from 30 years of leading people in the military and corporate America.

If you follow this link, you can purchase a signed copy that I will personalize for the leader (or future leader) on your Christmas list.

Give the gift of learning this year!

The Crisis We Face

I’ll be frank.

I’m concerned about the state of leadership in corporate America.

Every day I hear a new “bad boss” story.  One person told me of a boss that stands at the front door every morning with a clipboard in her hands.  Without offering so much as a hello, she records the names of employees that were coming in late or early.

No “good morning.”

No acknowledging them.

Just takin’ names.


By all accounts, there’s a leadership crisis in business today.  According to Gallup, 70% of employees are disengaged at work and half of U.S. employees are actively searching for a new job.  The bottom line is, we have a leadership problem in America.

According to Gallup, 70% of employees are disengaged at work and half of U.S. employees are actively searching for a new job. Click To Tweet

Yet, our collective knowledge on the subject has never been stronger.

There are no less than 15,000 books on leadership currently in print.

So what’s the “disconnect?”

In my humble-yet-highly-experienced opinion of running nine manufacturing businesses and leading on a nuclear sub in the Navy, we’ve lost sight of the goal.  We live in the “urgent”, the break-fix-repeat environment our busy lives encourage, and we’ve lost sight of what’s truly important…

Our people.

Without engaged people, everyone loses.

Without engaged people, everyone loses. Click To Tweet

Effective leaders understand this.

And the best ones are willing, when necessary, to let their people come before even a growing to-do list.

If you’d like to learn a simple way to pull the best out of your team, my book I Have The Watch reveals the leadership secrets (which are really people secrets) that have allowed me to make an impact from the confined quarters of a submarine to the expanse of corporate boardrooms.

You can order a signed copy here.

Turning those disgraceful stats around is going to take committed leaders.

Think you have what it takes? 🤔


“As the founder of a fast-growing, people-based business, I could not put this book down. Unlike any other book on leadership I’ve read, I Have the Watch boils it down to what really matters: how you treat people.” Natasha Goldstein, Founder & CEO, The Accountkeepers.