Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Are Loose Cannons Driving Down Your Employee Engagement Scores?

ARCHIVES
dslaven/Shutterstock.com

Have you ever worked with a “loose cannon”? This high-energy person moves ahead too quickly without checking facts. Loose cannons mean well, but their unpredictability causes collateral damage.  Typically, loose cannon employees are seen as a liability—and management is often looking for ways to help them “find new employment opportunities.” Frankly, I’ve not had a lot of patience with loose cannons in the past; I appreciate people with self-control. Recently I discovered a turn of phrase that prompted me to reconsider my viewpoint on loose cannons.

The folks at Newsweaver sent me this infographic about employee engagement. About midway through the infographic they highlight four employee archetypes and how each archetype contributes to employee engagement. As you can see from the infographic excerpt below, Newsweaver’s research indicates that employees can be engaged not at all (no surprise there), intellectually (as indicated by the shaded blue brain) and/or emotionally (the red heart).

The loose cannon archetype is an employee who is emotionally connected to the organization’s vision, as evidenced by their high energy and passionate commitment. What this type of employee lacks, according to Newsweaver, is the clarity on “where to apply their enthusiasm effectively.” Interesting.

This slight shift in perspective made me wonder: What if the loose cannons in your organization could become champions? Is it possible to channel the over-enthusiasm into something more productive? If it really is a matter of helping them understand how to better redirect their enthusiasm, then that seems a worthwhile use of a leader’s time. Hiring new employees is time-consuming and expensive, so helping an employee on the brink of termination benefits everyone.

Here are four ways leaders can channel misdirected employee enthusiasm:

  • During one-to-one time, ask the employee what her or her understanding of the organization (or department) vision is. You may uncover misperceptions that you can then clarify.
  • Give the employee feedback when he or she oversteps. You will need to walk the thin line of praise (“I admire your enthusiasm”) and correction (“When you invited the whole team without checking with the manager, it caused a budget crunch. Let’s walk through how you can handle that differently next time.”)
  • Coach the employee to develop several colleagues as “sounding boards.” Suggest even-tempered co-workers to the loose cannon—people who will help them think through their actions before they launch into a large project or a risky undertaking.
  • Help the employee see examples of positive role models. Think of a few champions that display the appropriate level of intellectual and emotional commitment. Create opportunities for your loose cannon to observe the champion in action. Better yet, find a way for the two people interact. For example, broker a lunch meeting, or find a way that they can work on a small project together.

There are some loose cannons that are simply too volatile to be productive players in your organization. However, if over-enthusiasm is the primary cause of an employee’s missteps, then leaders have recourse. Through coaching, praise, and redirection leaders can up the percentage of champions in their organization and create an even stronger sense of employee engagement.

To read more about Newsweaver’s research, download a copy of their whitepaper “Driving Employee Engagement through Internal Communications.”

Jennifer Miller is a writer and leadership development consultant. This article originally appeared on her blog The People Equation.

(Image via dslaven/Shutterstock.com)

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.