What is Employee Rust Out?

Rust out is about employees being dissatisfied with how they are treated at the workplace. Employees are dissatisfied when they feel that their work is not getting recognition. How can rust out being prevented or resolved? In a recent chat for USA Manufacturing Hour on Twitter, Host Valerie Weber from Monofrax in New York, led a discussion about rust out problems and solutions.


What is Employee Rust Out?

The discussion continued with participants sharing their definition of employee rust-out.

Julie Basello from Radwell International said, “When employees feel burned out or bored because of lack of growth or continuing education in their current role within an organization.”

Host, Weber replied, “Well done. You get a gold star.”

Dan Bigger said, “No clue. Maybe they are bored and not learning new skills.”

Kelly Plats from NACL said, “Best guess is employees who haven't had an personal development or continuing education or training. So they're just stuck in the process, not moving, getting rusty.”

Chase Bodor from Plastic Plus Technology said, “Could be a combination of things related to skills - whereas employees either don’t use a skill often enough for them to maintain their skill. Another possibility is that the technology outpaces their skill and they no longer are as efficient.”

Ruby Rusine and the Social Success Marketing team said, “Employee rust-out is the feeling of apathy and boredom that comes from working in a job that doesn't challenge or engage you.”

Rebecca Prox said the Digital Marketing Pro said, “I really don't know, but my guess is that old skills are coming back into play and people are having to dust them off to use them again. Maybe?”

Nigel Packer from Pelatis Online said, “I have had a little think about this one. It could be a number of things. A - Old employees who work in moist conditions. B - Young employees who don't do anything.”

Amy M. Anderson said, “Just guessing here based on the IB question: When employers slot employees into pigeon-holes where many of their skills are rarely used?”

Pavel Stepanov from VirtuDesk said, “Isn't it similar to quiet quitting where employees lose their motivation to work?”

Host, Val replied, “Quiet quitting may be caused by rust-out. Employee disengagement may result from boredom and a lack of challenges.”

Missy Moorefield Southern Fasteners and Supply said, “I'm thinking the same things as other folks here - being bored in their current position and not having the resources to grow.”

Michelle Riccetto from Brash Inc. said, “Employees losing motivation and being burnt out!”

Ingor Van Rooi, The Networking Ninja said, “I imagine it has something to do with employees feeling like they don’t add to the greater good of the company or like they don’t fit in.”

Host Weber said, “Rust-out is the opposite of burnout.”

She continued, “Employees are underwhelmed, underutilized, and disengaged.”


Most Likely to Rust Out

The chat then turned to which employees are most likely to rust-out. Participants shared their thoughts.

Rusine said, “Employees who are most likely to rust out include those who have been in their role for a long time, are not adequately challenged, don't feel like they are making an impact, or don't receive recognition.”

Prox said, ‘Hm... maybe the youngest generations of the workforce?”

Basello said, “My guess would be middle management. They would be taking care of employees; upper management would be busier with other things and middle mgmt development would fall through the cracks. Just a guess”

Kirsten Austin from DCSC Inc said, “I piggyback off of Julie's answer.”

Plats said, “Top management or supervisor teams?”

Bigger said, “Management”

Riccetto said, “Employees who have been in their role for a long time and haven’t been given the opportunity to step into new challenges!”

Moorefield said, “People who complain about feeling like their wings are clipped or who try to propose changes, only to be continually told "no" without any true thought to the proposal.”

Stepanov said, “Those with seniority on the job.”

Van Rooi said, “I think it would be women, but I may be wrong.”

Stepanov added, “Any employee who likes to be challenged, I guess.”

Host Weber said, “It affects entry-level employees who are under-challenged and older employees who have reached their limits.”



The discussion continued with participants sharing their thoughts on how rust-out affects employees.

Rusine said, “Rust-out affects employees in many ways. It can lead to reduced motivation, job dissatisfaction, and even burnout.”stressed-warehouse-workers

Bigger said, “Lack of motivation”

Basello said, “It can really affect mental health. People who have no direction or hope for growth can start to feel really bad about themselves and their career.”

Prox said, “Boredom at any job creates complacency, which leads to lower productivity.”

Plats said, “Lowers productivity for the individual in teams. It can also affect the overall vibe/mood of the organization when people are experience rust-out.”

Bodor said, “They HATE (or are just sick of) their jobs. This can a domino effect on their mental well-being.”

Van Rooi said, “I imagine it would affect their morale and in turn, their mindset…making them feel demotivated.”

Host, Weber replied, “You get a gold star for this answer Ingor.”

Stepanov said, “They become demotivated, bored, and they are not learning new skills to go to the higher level which means no growth.”

Stepanov said, “Rust-out employees may feel agitated and need to try something new, but since there are no growth opportunities, they stagnate in their position.”

Host Weber said, “Rust-out can lead to chronic boredom, depression, and apathy.”


Harmful Effects

The discussion then turned to how rust-out can harm your company. Participants shared their insights.

Rusine said, “Decreased innovation, lower morale, and more turnover.”

Bigger said, “They give up and quiet quit. Lack of production”

Bodor said, ” A company can lose good employees for one. Recruiters are out there poaching - so beware! Another issue is that you'll get bare minimum work from someone who is disengaged.”

Plats said, “Performance drops, vibes are off, people aren't having a good time coming in to work. Customers not having a good time with disengaged employees.”

Rusine replied, “Alarming and drastic!”

Host, Weber replied, “Definitely not a good vibe. Definitely not a good vibe.”

Prox said, “Seems like a no-brainer to say that productivity gets lost.”

Austin said, “As a business owner, I know first-hand if you are not paying attention, you can lose a very good team member. Happy Humans are so important to business sustainability and growth. You need to provide the right opportunity for your team members to grow.”

Van Rooi said, “It can affect the company culture, making people feel like it’s just a job and not where they really want to be. That will, in turn, affect the bottom-line because employees are not happy, revenue will eventually decrease.”

Stepanov added, “Decreased productivity, high attrition rate, and toxicity in the workplace.”

Anderson replied, “Toxicity in the workplace is very destructive! It's very hard to overcome. Much better to address before the contagion destroys overall morale.”

Stepanov added, “Underperformance, decreased productivity, and more headaches.”

Host Weber said, “Rust-out results in quiet quitting, increased turnover, a decline in morale, and decline in work quality.”



What’s the solution to rust-out? Participants weighed in.

Prox said, “As a manager, I'd have a conversation about what kinds of challenges an employee would like to encounter in their career and find ways to put those challenges in front of the person.”

Host, Weber said, “Rebecca, you get all of the gold stars for that.”

Plats said, “Connect with your employees on a regular basis and set targets for not only KPIs, but also for personal development. Its a big task, but it is possible with support.”

Stepanov replied, “I agree with all of this!”

Rusine said, “Prioritize connection & collaboration. Encourage teams to work together, brainstorm solutions, and support one another. Invest in professional development. Offer training. Give time off & flexible hours.”

Van Rooi said, “I think it would start with treating employees like people; helping them be seen and heard. Also, company’s need to proactively create a company culture that helps their employees know the value they add to the entire organization and are part of the whole.”

Stepanov said, “Offer learning opportunities such as training programs, workshops, conferences, and mentorship. Encourage your employees to acquire new skills and provide avenues for career advancement and professional growth.”

Host Weber said, “Match employees with the right job. Keep employees engaged & challenged.

Consider cross training.”



What’s the dirty secret about rust-out? Participants shared their thoughts.

Plats said, “Its caused, influenced, and fixable from the same source...leadership.”

Van Rooi said, “No Idea”

Rusine said, “I'm going to wait for you to reveal the secret, Val.”

Austin said, “I have no clue!”

Prox said, “ooh, I don't know, but now I need to!”

Host Weber said, “Rust-out can result from quiet firing. It has been used to force employees to resign.”



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