- “Talent abuse” is when employers fail to tap into the skillset of their high-skill employees and shift the blame for this failure onto them.
- Talent abuse is also the failure of employers to nurture the development of these often underappreciated, misjudged, and excluded employees.
- To prevent workplace talent abuse, employers and management teams must create an inclusive work environment centered around psychological safety, self-accountability, and reasonable boundaries.
It’s common sense that abusing workers isn’t acceptable. Despite that, talent abuse in the workplace runs rampant in many companies.
“Talent abuse,” defined by Let’s Do What Matters CEO Dr. Lauren Tucker is the same idea as “talent mismanagement.”
It’s by this standard that talent abuse is profoundly common in the modern world of work.
According to Dr. Saima Zubair in the journal Governance and Management Review, when “talent management practices such as retention, succession planning, and training and development” get neglected, the outcome is a discouraged and underperforming team.
The standard case of talent abuse involves high-skilled employees who find themselves unable to use their skillset at work without anyone to teach them new skills or cultivate their existing skills.
This often results in poor employee performance on job tasks.
Poor employee performance does not typically lead to managerial accountability but instead to employers blaming their failure to train and develop their employees on the employees themselves.
To resolve talent abuse, employers must create inclusive environments that incentivize self-accountability, psychological safety, and health workspace boundaries.
Talent Abuse Hurts Worker Wellness and Worker Productivity
As Dr. Zubair further notes, when workers feel underappreciated under talent abuse, this reduces their sense of well-being.
Working at a job knowing that you aren’t allowed to reach your full potential or speak openly, all while being blamed by managers for that fact, would naturally be discouraging.
When workers feel unappreciated at work, this can lead to symptoms of depression, which researchers in the journal Annals of Family Medicine demonstrate as directly correlated with reductions in worker productivity.
When taken too far, talent abuse in the form of negligent mismanagement can potentially lead to employees developing physical ailments that reduce their ability to work.
Creating an Inclusive Environment to Combat Talent Abuse
A new approach to management — one both Dr. Zubair and Dr. Tucker endorse as the solution to the talent abuse epidemic — calls for self-accountability among managers, resulting in an inclusive workspace environment.
An inclusive workspace involves changing behavioral norms associated with management practices that impact workers the most.
Workers with unique skills in such an environment would not have these exceptional skills ignored. Instead, these workers would have their unique skillset cultivated by managers and other staff, so they can be made useful.
Part of this must also involve creating an environment centered around psychological safety.
For workers to have their needs heard, they must have the ability to speak freely in a workspace without fear of backlash.
Psychological safety is when workers feel safe to speak freely. Psychological safety can only be created in a workspace when managers respect boundaries and hold themselves accountable for their actions.
An environment where psychological safety, self-accountability, and reasonable boundaries are prioritized makes workers feel more appreciated, resulting in greater levels of worker productivity.
Most importantly, inclusive environments tap into crucial skills that would have otherwise laid dormant in a neglected employee.
Tapping into all the skills your employees might possess — even skills they can’t yet see themselves — can bring big benefits to all parts of a workplace.
It benefits employees by boosting their career progress and skill set. It benefits workspaces by making them fun and productive places to be. Finally, it helps employers because more productive workers make for more successful business operations.