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3 lessons on disengagement from an aqua class

I always joke with my husband that my moments of inspiration usually happen in the shower. This is where I come with ideas for my books, talks and work that I’m doing with my clients. So it should be no surprise that I had similar moments of inspiration during my aqua class, this time relating to the impact and cost of disengagement.

Let me begin by saying that I love taking aqua classes. Or at least I did before three women started taking it, ones that spend the entire class chatting amongst themselves and doing as little exercise as possible. I call them the disengaged, for although they are quite engaged with their chatter, they are disengaged with the main reason for being there, the class and the exercise.

As I was doing my best to ignore them during class this one day it made me think of the impact they have on those around them. And, how this compares to what happens when we have disengaged employees in the workplace. So, here are three lessons I had during this inspirational moment. By the way, I thought this blog was much more constructive than shouting at them across the pool to just shut up!

1. Disengaged employees take up space

The frustrating thing about my aqua class is that the spots fill up in about five minutes. This means that if you don’t go online between 7:00 and 7:05 am the week before the class, you don’t get in. Since most of the people taking the class are retired, this doesn’t seem to cause them challenges, but to me, someone who still works and travels with work, it can indeed be very challenging.

So when I saw these three women all I could think of was - what a waste of space! They are taking spaces away from people like me who want to be there, but quite often can’t get a space.

The same is true in the workplace, where we only have a limited number of spaces (jobs). For this reason, my question to you is, do you have the right people filling these spaces? Are there people who don’t want to be there or are there for the wrong reasons that are taking up valuable space? 

2. Disengaged employees get in the way of others

Moving on, my next frustration about these disengaged people is that they get in the way. Since much of the class we spend moving left to right or front to back, these three women who stand in place and talk do little but get in the way of others. You end up having to go around them or being stuck in one place trying to get the workout you came there to do, thus ruining your experience.

Again, the same is true in the workplace. If your disengaged people are standing ‘in place’ they are getting in the way of the experience and success of your other people. 

3. Disengaged employees make others want to leave

And finally, the impact of these disengaged people was that I got very close to quitting the gym. Between the frustration of not being able to get into classes, or when I did, having to bob and weave around them, I had decided to cancel my membership. It was only when I decided that I wasn’t going to let them ruin it for me that I decided to stay.

The same can and does happen in the workplace, with people leaving because of the negative impact that disengaged employees have on them. Like me, they may get to the point where they say that enough is enough, and that they don’t want people like this around them ruining their experience.

Let me end by saying that there was a ray of hope during this class, and that was when our instructor surprised everyone and jokingly splashed water on these women, telling them to break it up. We all held back applause, but did have huge grins on our faces.

This is exactly what needs to happen when as a leader we see disengagement in our ‘pool.’ We need to do something to break it up, change it or get them entirely out of your ‘pool.’ 


Please contact me with any questions you have, or for help you may require in designing and delivering your engagement strategy or programs. I'm here to help however I can. All the best!


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