Why Do Stupid Leaders Ignore Their Employees

Why do stupid leaders ignore their employees?

More often than not, we see leaders ignoring their employees and their concerns, and what normally happens is either:

  • The employee decides that he/she has had enough, and leaves the company
  • The employee decides that he/she will tarnish the work that their team has done, since he/she does not feel satisfied with his/her leader’s performance and resorts to acts of sabotage.

But taking a deeper dive into the question, there are so many different reasons why an employee would choose to do that.

So why do stupid leaders ignore their employees?

Active Disengagement 

Research from The Gallup Organization shows that when you ignore your people, there is a 40% chance that they will be actively disengaged.   

To be disengaged is to slack off, be less committed, contribute marginally, or to be really unhappy at your workplace.

In other words, it means that the employee has now gone ‘zombie mode’ on you.   

They have become actively toxic and poisonous.  They begin to undo the good work that others are doing, talk bad about you and your teams; and they constantly sow divisions in your teams.   

And all that points back to you, the leader. 

That means that if you disregard your duty to actively engage your employees, there’s almost a half chance that they’ll turn around and make your job that much harder. 

Just like all toxins, they spread. And they need to be solved. 

Employee Engagement 

The reverse is a much better scenario.  If leaders begin to focus on the strengths of their people, the same Gallup research found that there is just a 1% chance of active disengagement. 

Another Gallup study in 2012 that included 1.4 million employees across 192 organizations in 34 countries found that employee engagement strongly relates to key organizational outcomes in any economic climate.

Employee engagement is a critical element to the sustained success and profitability of any company and it impacts 9 key performance outcomes: – 

  • 37% lower absenteeism 
  • 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations) 
  • 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations) 
  • 28% less shrinkage 
  • 48% fewer safety incidents 
  • 41% fewer patient safety incidents 
  • 41% fewer quality incidents (defects) 
  • 10% higher customer metrics 
  • 21% higher productivity  
  • 22% higher profitability

But do you really need research to tell you all that? That companies do better when their employees are engaged?   

You don’t need the research from Gallup to tell you that employees that are ignored are not happy campers in your company.

Why? We can easily find out why through basic human behaviour.

People Want To Be Noticed 

It is inbuilt in us humans to want to be noticed. We yearn for recognition by people that will make a difference in our lives. People want to be acknowledged, they want to be affirmed, and the need for recognition is inherent in everyone of us. Even if it is for the wrong reasons.   

What do you think happens to employee engagement when instead of completely ignoring your employees, you focus on their weaknesses; for example, when you penalize them for messing up, or focus on helping them to build what they lack in?

Gallup found out the chance of active disengagement is 22% – It actually dropped from the previous 40% of active disengagement!  Your people wants to be noticed by you! 

So leaders, whatever it is, don’t ignore your people. Notice them. Tough love is sometimes better than no love. Even if it is the wrong love. But don’t push it! Well, at least, it is a start. And over time, you can learn how to do it better. 

So here are 5 things that leaders can start doing today to notice their employees and people. 

 5 Things Leaders Do 

Employees that are engaged and productive are the ones that know they have their leaders‘ attention.

Here are 5 simple things you can do to ensure your people know you notice them: – 

  1. Be interested in their opinions.  Many leaders subconsciously love to listen to their own voices.  Often they seek for the opinions only to talk over those that gave them the opinions.  Stop being a talk-over!  Listen.  Acknowledge. And say thank you. 
  2. Care about their welfare.  Don’t just talk about work.  Sometimes talking beyond work is a great elixir to building trust and relationship.  It doesn’t need to get personal but you could ask questions like “What was the best thing that happened for you last week?” Or “How are you today?” Or “How’s the coffee?”
  3. Be affirming when they do good work.  Don’t keep quiet when something good happens.  Affirm them.  Praise them.   
  4. Be encouraging always.  No matter what, in good or bad days, always be encouraging.  People will remember how you made them feel.  They don’t easily forget that. 
  5. Be about them.  Not you.  As a leader, it is about you noticing them.  And not about you trying to do whatever it takes for them to notice you.  And the reward for turning the lights on them is this: When you notice your people, your people will notice you. 

Over the course of working with so many different sets of people and workplace dynamics, we’ve seen some of the worst possible outcomes that can occur when a leader fails to take note of their employees.

Often times, it ends up being a zero sum game where nobody wins.

So don’t be ‘stupid’.  Don’t ignore your employees.  Be smart.  Notice your people. 

Because when it comes down to it, leaders aren’t the only ones that are building this company.

Employees are, too.

If you like this article and want to find out more about Empowering Leaders, feel free to download the free guide we have prepared for you below. 

Kim Pong is the CEO and Founder of StrengthsAsia, Creator of the REFRAME MasterClass and the first 20 Gallup Certified Strengths Coaches in the world.  He is based in Singapore and works with organizations in Asia in creating an engaged workplace culture for leaders, managers and executives to thrive.

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