Research

‘Pseudo-engaged’ workers drag down productivity

24 Jan 2019 By Lauren Brown

Some employees have a negative impact despite appearing productive on the surface

All employees have varying levels of engagement with their work, but researchers from Hult International Business School have identified a particular kind of worker who appears to be highly engaged but actually drags the productivity of the team down. 

Researchers examined engagement levels of teams of workers across seven different sectors and found – as might be expected – employees who were exceptionally engaged and those who weren’t.

But they also identified staff who were “gaming the system”, leading to the creation of a third category: pseudo-engaged. These workers were found to be more likely to gain promotions and bonuses despite their actual negative business impact. 

Senior researcher Amy Armstrong told the BBC that such individuals were often actively encouraged by managers: “They’re rewarded for that dysfunctional behaviour. It’s quite a depressing picture.” Such staff were seen to be “managing upwards” – impressing senior managers during interactions while in reality failing to make measurable progress in their everyday work. 

Responding to the research, Dean Forbes, CEO at CoreHR, said: “Providing teams with the right support and the right opportunities is a continuous balancing act, which is why the type of employee identified by this research raises big questions for management. 

“The ‘self-promoters’ described here might be front of mind when considering promotions and new opportunities, but that approach means the real change-makers remain untapped.”

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