RIP: Retired in Position

“Retired in position” refers to an unengaged employee, a term which I first heard used by Ken Blanchard. These individuals are just going through the motions, showing up to do the minimum, and would rather be somewhere else. Does this sound familiar?

Well, it should. Per Gallup research, an astounding 70 percent of U.S. employees are not showing up to work fully committed to delivering their best performance. Adding insult to injury, 52 percent of those workers are sleepwalking through their day or retired in position. All jobs have a learning curve—but as time progresses, and the skill is enhanced, the challenge of the job will lessen.

Unfortunately, most companies do not have abundant opportunities to reassign employees, promote, or enhance the current role. It is quite the conundrum to challenge an employee in a position where there are no longer challenging opportunities. It calls for both the employee and leader to openly discuss the reality of the situation and how best to move forward.

3 Steps to Change

First, it would be necessary to understand what the employee loves to do. Do they enjoy coaching or teaching others? Do they aspire to move to a different department? Is there a function they would like to learn, such as project management? Do they want to lead a bigger team? Seek feedback from peers and leaders. The input may provide insights into the skills and qualities that are visible to others.

Second, the leader has to be courageous enough to help the employee, which may result in obtaining the skills to move to a different department. Personally, as a leader, I would rather see an employee stay within the company rather than risk them leaving to a competitor. A leader should be concerned with the success of the employee and not themselves.

Finally, the leader needs to pave the way for the employee to take on the new challenge. Together, they would need to put the right measures in place, in a development plan, to ensure the current duties do not deteriorate due to the additional responsibilities. It’s been my experience that the employee will be more productive because of their renewed motivation to come into work.

Ultimately, you need to be honest with yourself, and open to discuss how you feel with your leader with well-thought-out ideas in hand. You own your professional development and know that your role has a shelf life. Don’t wait until after the expiration date to realize you are retired in position.