HR & Management

Iceberg employees threaten to freeze business growth

3 min read

04 September 2015

So-called "iceberg employees" have been described as emotionally drained and potentially damaging to your business.

They are the “iceberg employees” – so stressed out and uncertain about their job security that they struggle to interact effectively with colleagues and customers.

That is according to corporate consultant and coach Geetu Bharwaney, who fears that more hours and less pay in an increasingly volatile market are causing growing numbers of Brits to bury their feelings in order to cope with the pressure.

“Deadlines, late nights and increased expectations, as well as uncertainty over the future, are rendering some professionals totally incapable of dealing with simple problems without a significant fall in performance,” she said. “Others have become so blinkered on their job through pressure or worry that they have lost the inclination to chat to co-workers or talk openly with their teams and managers. Offices could become toxic working environments within ten years unless bosses take steps to reduce workplace stress and add some fun back into the workplace.”

Despite the need to speak about their experiences and concerns, employees fear being labelled as “unprofessional” and putting their position within the company at risk. So they stay silent.

“Some managers don’t see emotion as part of the toolkit they need to be effective in generating productivity through an engaged workforce. They treat their staff like machines and miss the important detail of emotion that can unlock performance in any job setting,” Bharwaney added.

“In this type of professional environment, where emotion is not considered normal or acceptable, people can’t manage their emotions well and shut down, withdrawing from their situation and colleagues as a self-defence mechanism. Emotions, however, provide a vital source of information in the workplace. If professionals deliberately try to tune out of this, disconnecting from both their own and teammates’ emotions, then they cannot get a full picture of what’s going on and employee engagement, talent retention and brand reputation all suffer. Business is about people and relies on effective working relationships to succeed. Forcing a person to switch off and become what we call an ‘iceberg employee’ will undermine performance very quickly.”

She advocated a greater focus on emotional resilience training which takes a “full view of how someone handles themselves personally, in teams and across the entire organisation”.

She added: “Emotionally resilient people – those who have the flexibility and know-how to deal with ongoing situations rather than one-off problems or crises – are the most consistently productive professionals. The bigger picture is that companies that embrace emotional resilience have a competitive advantage by having fully functional individuals and teams working towards the organisation’s goals.”