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Does Your Staff Suffer From A.D.E?
Karen Schmidt

By now you would have heard of the childhood condition A.D.D. or “Attention Deficit Disorder” and realised that it doesn’t always disappear when people reach adulthood. This should cause some concern for managers as they struggle to deal with the needs of staff with short attention spans. However, I believe there is another condition that should be of even more interest if you manage people . . . A.D.E. It stands for the Actively DisEngaged employee, a new phenomenon we are seeing in workplaces all around the country.

What it is

To understand ADE you need to identify two other related terms as well. The Gallup Organisation has come up with an easy to understand guide to the 3 levels of engagement we see in employees currently populating the workplace.

Engaged . . . people who work with passion and feel connected to their organisation
Not Engaged . . . people putting in time but not energy or passion into their work
Actively DisEngaged . . . people acting out their dissatisfaction for others to see

Why it matters

Lack of engagement is a real issue with real costs attached. A survey of 50,000 employees by the Corporate Leadership Council in 2004 found that only 11% said they were fully engaged at work, 76% knew they could demonstrate more commitment and 13% described themselves as actively disengaged.

Let’s put those statistics to work and see what they might actually mean for your organisation. Imagine that each of those 13% of actively disengaged employees earns $40,000 per annum (the average Australian salary as issued by the ABS) and each one is producing 20% less work than your engaged employees (a fairly conservative estimate). If you do the calculations, that means each disengaged employee is costing your organisation a minimum of $8,000 per annum and that’s without considering the many oncosts.

How to tell if you have any ADE employees

Here are 5 easy to observe characteristics that will help you identify them.

1. Come to work when they are sick and stay home when they are well
2. Only work hard when their manager is around or just before performance review time
3. Enjoy recounting every bad experience they have been through with the company
4. Sabotage change programs and new initiatives either overtly or covertly
5. Negatively influence the attitude of other people around them

Why do we allow it to continue?

So if the A.D.E. employee is costing us so much money and, let’s face it, is fairly easy to recognise, why is it that we allow their behaviour to continue? Surely it would be in the interests of every manager to find a way to re-engage those people as soon as possible. Well, the reality is there are a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s hard work to fix! Secondly, we often really need that person’s skills so we overlook their less desirable traits. Finally, add to this the fear of legal implications in terminating someone’s employment and you have a lot of barriers facing managers. But it’s a bit like the old training adage “what if we train them and they leave; what if you don’t and they stay”. In this case it’s “what if we take action and it’s painful; what if you don’t and it’s still painful and other people follow their example”.

How to fix it

If left unchecked, the symptoms of A.D.E. can spread throughout your organisation like a contagious disease, so it is vital that you take action and quickly. This is equally as important if you have inherited the problem employees. As difficult as it might be, the best thing you can do is confront the ADE employee and give them an offer: you will help them find a way to get engaged or you will help them find their next employment opportunity. The choice is theirs. Now I know there are discrimination laws and lots of other legislation that will make it difficult for you to just make this happen overnight but you must take action. If you don’t, other employees will start to question your leadership skills and you may lose one of them instead!

Karen Schmidt from Let’s Grow! is the re-engagement expert.
Her mission is to help you refresh, reignite and re-engage your team for success.
Contact her on 0411 745 430 or visit


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