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My friend J. D. was working as a project manager in an office for six months two years ago. Now, he remembers this experience with bitterness. In the beginning, he was eager to start a new job. He had been selected among more than ten candidates after three stages of the hiring process and was proud of how he had done at the interview. J. D. was promised a lot of freedom in terms of managing his projects and organizing the work of his team. Passionate about project management, he had been reading a lot and watching lectures online on the subject. He was well-prepared, looking forward, carrying many ideas about what he could bring to the work, and eager to start. Everything seemed well for the first month or so. Soon, the low season came, and the scarcity of projects made everyone in the office more or less disengaged. J. D. found himself in a situation where he would spend his entire working days just watching series on his laptop, and the rest of his colleagues did not do anything related to work either.
From the human resources management (HRM) perspective, J. D. was displaying employee disengagement. It was expressed in his cyberloafing, i.e. using Internet access at work for personal entertainment (Lim & Chen, 2012). Besides, J. D. says that, after two months of working in that office, he was significantly less willing to come to work on time in the morning or stay there until the end of the working day. For a few times, he skipped his work without really having to explain the absence to his supervisor because his supervisor did not seem to care much. At meetings, J. D. was bored. Tardiness, absences, and neglecting work functions are included in the notion of employee disengagement (Baker, 1999). For human resources managers, they signify issues of productivity, reliability, and commitment.
Solutions for J. D.’s case could be proposed within the HRM framework but should not be limited to it because HRM is not separate from other management actions (Roos, Fernström, & Pike, 2004). When asked about what the reasons for his disengagement were, J. D. replies that he experienced a lack of motivation. Even when he had enough projects to work on all day, he no longer felt inspired. Motivation comes from a purpose; humans who do not see the purpose or positive outcomes of their work perform worse (Lindley, 1984). Therefore, the measure that needed to be taken by the management was to show the employees how meaningful their work was. A low season is a challenge, but this is exactly when managers should enhance internal communication to keep the employees motivated. The combination of employee engagement and manager self-efficacy is proven to positively affect effectiveness (Luthans & Peterson, 2002). Finally, J. D.’s cyberloafing could be turned into something less harmful for the working process. Studies show that employees’ extensive use of the Internet at the workplace can be transformed into a contribution to productivity (Dery & MacCormick, 2012). To accomplish that, human resources managers should have encouraged employees to find and share information online that is relevant to their work.
In J. D.’s case, employee disengagement was due to the lack of motivation. To address this issue, human resources managers should have combined their efforts with those of other managers to convey to the employees the meaningfulness of their work and to engage them in work-related activities during the low season.
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