Are “Workplace Prisoners” holding your business hostage?

Workplace Prisoner

Approximately 10% of the global workforce is termed to be “Workplace Prisoners” – actively disengaged employees who normally have little positive to say about their company behind closed doors. Normally they have no desire to leave the business or they are regular unsuccessful applicants with other businesses, but they cannot secure their existing salaries and benefits elsewhere, so don’t move.

They do however remain in your business, enjoying all the benefits but haven’t got their shoulder to the wheel with the rest of your team.

Why should leaders be aware of workplace prisoners?

These individuals can be extremely dangerous to the entire workplace as they actively recruit others to join them and their work can be marginal at best. The negative energy that they spread can create damage which is irreparable.

And the worst news??? Workplace prisoners tend to be more likely to stay with their organisation longer than the average employee!

How can you deal with a Workplace Prisoner in a few steps?

Spot them and deal with them quickly! This is difficult and they often go undetected to leaders. They are most likely longer-term employees who receive higher than the normal salaries for their roles. Keep your eyes and ears open for signs of discontent, negative comments, and unexpected slowdowns in work progress among teams. Stay engaged with members of your teams that are not your direct reports. Get in and about the teams to get feelings and feedback across the business. Another option is to engage a consultant to review your teams and gain honest feedback.

Please, please, please do not fall into the trap that the Workplace Prisoner has been in the business so long and are loyal to the brand. Too often, during my time consulting, I have heard Northern Ireland business leaders say, “If you cut them, they would bleed this business.”

Adopt a Mentoring Mindset. Try to engage and probe. What is the reason for the unhappiness? Why is there discontent? Does their role no longer give them the motivation to do their best? Have they lost faith in the brand? Do they understand the path that the business is on and the part they have to play? What changes would they recommend in the business to improve productivity? In general, how can you win them round to get back to the previous performance levels that had them appointed in the role originally.

Provide Ongoing Performance Feedback to Everyone. Too often performance appraisal is seen as a once-a-year phenomena that wears everyone out and provides no useful purpose. This then gets tied to a pay appraisal and sets a different agenda which does not provide an open honest conversation. Instead, begin to see performance feedback as an ongoing daily part of your job. Be sure each employee is aware of the expectations for their job and has the tools and resources to complete those expectations. Regular check-ups and touch-base sessions can help you spot problems while they are still small and manageable, and it takes away the excuses that may be used.

SET THEM FREE!!! There comes a time when you need to decide is this fixable or not. Can you, or the employee, salvage this situation? Have they just gone too far and it’s not retrievable? If this is the case, it’s time to engage your HR resource in order to set the prisoner free.

When all is said and done, your engaged employees will be overjoyed, and your prisoner may even feel the benefit of being unshackled!

Lockview Business Solutions are keen to engage with business owners to discuss how they can deliver positive outcomes through specific consultancy projects in businesses based in Belfast and across Northern Ireland.

We work closely with business owners and leaders on a consultancy basis to challenge and define their goals for the coming years and help deliver a strategy to achieve their vision. Acting as a Business Bounce Board to sound out, challenge and share ideas that deliver success through three main pillars of Sales Improvement, Cost Reduction and Contract Negotiation.

By reviewing the businesses current processes, analysing data and working with the existing teams, our business and management consultants are the conduit to deliver on business growth, profitability and potentially work towards a succession plan or an exit strategy.

If you can’t see the wood for the trees and need someone independent and impartial to help you navigate problems with fresh eyes call us today on 02896 009 275, visit or book time with Adrian McCourt directly at this link

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