The 5 Kinds of Fatigued Employees – and How to Help Re-engage Them

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I had the opportunity to present at SHRM in Orlando this week.

I was gratified to have a full session at the 7 am early-bird spot on Tuesday. I think the title of my session – How to Transform Employee Fatigue into Employee Engagement – may have resonated with SHRM attendees.

As I was able to discuss later at SHRM with John Hollon, editor of TLNT, employee recognition data has become a powerful tool to better understand our employees’ state of mind and ways in which we can influence them more effectively.

For those unable to attend, I’d like to share the main points of my presentation in which I discussed the five primary types of “fatigued” employees. I shared a good many statistics, too, primarily from our Workforce Mood Tracker and SHRM/Globoforce surveys. (Full survey reports are available here.)

1. The Uninspired Employee

Symptoms: Doesn’t see meaning in their job (or how they fit into the mission of company).  They often lack motivation and drive.

To fully engage, day after day, employees need inspiration. We all need a sense of greater purpose and meaning for what we do beyond the day-to-day tasks.

When we recognize others for how they’ve contributed to the bigger picture, we help our colleagues gain that needed deeper meaning. And when we do so in the context of the core values of the organization, we help all employees understand more deeply the company conviction to do business right – achieve needed results, yes, but only when we can do so without violating our core values.

Indeed, 72 percent of companies (with recognition tied to core values) said employees felt fairly rewarded for performance. And values-based recognition has a profound impact and many factors that drive bottom-line value:

2. The “Checked Out” Employee

Symptoms: Can’t wait to run out the door when 5 pm hits or is going through the motions, content to “rack up” years of service without any meaningful motivation

Some 81 percent of companies celebrate milestone anniversary awards in some sort of Years of Service or Long Service program. And yet, only 15 percent of employees in these programs say receiving such an award helped them be more engaged. Indeed, 51 percent say a service award changed nothing.

Why is this? Well, 73 percent of employees say recognition is far more meaningful when it includes feedback from others – peers and colleagues – as well as their managers. That’s why a much more modern approach to service anniversaries intentionally involves others in the celebration moment.

3. The Negative Employee

Symptoms: Can be a real “Debbie Downer” and bring down the happiness levels of those around them if their influence is allowed to grow and spread.

The impact of happiness on numerous factors – employee engagement and satisfaction at work as well as physical health, family and others – is well documented. Being recognized at work for demonstrating core values (as discussed in the first example above) is a key contributor to perceptions of personal happiness – at work and at home.

4. The Fortune Teller Employee

Symptoms: Dreads performance reviews due to poor structure and lack of peer input. He knows the drill and what’s going to happen (the same as last year).

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Employees (51 percent) and managers (45 percent) alike see the traditional performance review as a failed mechanism, giving an inaccurate appraisal of employee performance. Some 61 percent of respondents to a survey said performance reviews rarely or never lead to improved performance.

So what works better? We don’t need to throw out the traditional process entirely, but rather supplement it with the Crowdsourced Performance Review. How does that work in practice? A client of ours in the high-technology industry tells us:

We actually see recognition as a living, breathing, performance journal, and it’s given us insights into what team members are doing and what they’re not doing…And what’s been really great is the ability that we’ve had to integrate the recognition data into our performance appraisals and into our performance management.”

5. The Under-Appreciated Team

Symptoms: Knows the only recognition they might receive will be at the annual awards event, so why work hard the other 11 months of year when their efforts won’t be remembered?

While 78 percent of employees say they’d work harder if their efforts were recognized, only 15 percent of employees have been recognized in the past month. Saying “thank you” in a very specific and, critically, timely way is easy to do and delivers tremendous results – results many organizations are missing out on. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), for example, found:

Appreciation is one of the most effective motivators in building long-term employee engagement, and at the end of the day, saying ‘Thank you’ is just part of showing you care.”

And for IHG, the bottom-line impact is undeniable:

  • The difference in operating profit between hotels with highly engaged staff and those without can be as high as 7 percent.
  • A 5 percentage point rise in engagement = 70 cents of increased revenue per available room per night
  • This means a 200-bed hotel could make more than $50,000 in additional revenue a year by improving staff engagement.

The Power of Thanks

So what were the take-away lessons for each of these employee types? Social recognition can:

  1. Help an organization recognize and reinforce core values.
  2. Reinvigorate years of service programs.
  3. Reshape behaviors, how what’s desired, and elevate collective happiness.
  4. Reinvent the performance review.
  5. Build a culture of trust and positivity.

What type of employees do you see in your organization? How are you helping them overcome their fatigue and re-engage?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


1 Comment on “The 5 Kinds of Fatigued Employees – and How to Help Re-engage Them

  1. Getting people to admit they tick one of these boxes needs active engagement. Sometimes the wrong person gets the job by giving all the correct answers. Hard to root them out. The balance has to be whether the persons potential input is worth he investment of focus and time. Time is more valuable than gold. Can you accept half heartedness with enough of a return to avoid time investment? Some can.

    Ticking along is all some want because the structure of their business demands attention elsewhere. I have spoken to many, many business owners who don’t actually want mega performance because they could not cope with the results success brings. It would mean reorganising, recruiting, sometimes reinventing. Sometimes ticking along is enough, and having enough people on board willing to be consistent are the keys to their personal kingdom. They have seen sudden success and sometimes how it is mishandled. It scares them. I have seen it mishandled too because of taking on added expenditure and credit to keep the expansion in track. To tick along, head down, clock off is more than enough for some who want to still be around in twenty years. The judgement affects how they hire, too.

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