A new study shines a light on a disturbing trend that might be sending your best performers packing.

In an ideal world, your top employees would be the most engaged, happily going about their work and talking to everyone about how much they love the company.

But it appears the opposite is the case.

In over 40% of companies, low performers are more motivated and more likely to enjoy working for their companies than other workers.

How does that happen? Some of your managers may be letting the worst staff members get away with doing the easiest work. And wouldn’t that make you happy?

Worse: Since those employees aren’t being held accountable for their poor work, your best performers may feel like they have to cover for them, leading to frustration, lack of engagement and turnover.

That’s according to a new study from Mark Murphy, CEO of consulting firm Leadership IQ. The findings come from engagement surveys and performance evaluations provided by 207 companies.

The surprising results don’t end there, either, according to the results of a separate study of a 1,000-person company: Low performers were the most likely to say, “I am motivated to give 100% effort when I’m at work” and  “I recommend [company name] as a great organization to work for.”

How to get engagement back

So what’s wrong? The study’s authors include two takeaways for readers:

  • Talk to your best workers. By this point, the importance of communication has been drilled into your heads. But that doesn’t mean that every managers always stay in touch with top staffers.
    Supervisors should find time once a month to find out the following from their best workers: “Tell me about a time in the past month when you felt demotivated or emotionally burned out” and “Tell me about a time in the past month when you felt motivated/excited/jazzed up.”
    That will give your managers valuable info on motivators and demotivators for those all-important employees.
  • Identify what success and failure looks like. Something’s wrong when your worst performers aren’t being held accountable for shoddy efforts. Stress to your managers that if they see performance issues among the ranks, they must take action. Otherwise, that sub-par performance will be looked upon as acceptable.

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