In any organization, we can divide employees into two groups: those who are more ambitious, talented, and distinguished from others by the efficiency and quality of their work, and those described as average, performing the minimum of their duties without much enthusiasm and characterized by less motivation to work. The first group when put in a situation of dissatisfaction with working conditions will quickly decide to change their place of employment – while employees from the second group will get stuck in their current place for a long time.

Such a situation is what Bruce F. Webster, an American lecturer and programmer, called the dead sea effect. Below we explain exactly what situation this term refers to, the reasons behind it and the consequences it leads to, and give tips on how an organization can deal with it.

The dead sea effect – what does it consist of?

This term, of course, refers to the reservoir located between Israel and Jordan, which water can only leave by evaporation, making it characterized by the world’s highest salinity. Because of these characteristics, the reservoir is devoid of life activity – no organic form can exist in it.

The dead sea effect has been transferred to management and describes organizations where bad practices have led to the departure (“evaporation”) of the most competent employees from the company. Behind such behavior was the belief that, given their abilities, they did not have to tolerate improper practices and behavior (because they would find new employment without much effort). At the same time, in companies affected by such a situation, the remaining employees were considered “inferior” or “weaker”.

Causes of the dead sea effect

It is worth noting that this term can be used to refer to both specific teams and organizations as a whole. Moreover, it can describe entities operating in the public and private sectors regardless of industry, although it most often touches areas related to new technologies (IT, high-tech, telecom). Regardless of the situation, however, among the most common causes leading to the dead sea effect will be such bad practices deriving from the lack of:

  • development prospects,
  • support from the leader,
  • a sense of purpose in the activities performed,
  • challenges in daily work,
  • set goals,
  • positive atmosphere (bad organizational culture, unresolved conflicts in teams, bullying of employees, etc.).

Consequences of the dead sea effect

Poor management practices (in the areas of supervisor behavior, processes or teamwork) primarily lead to the most talented employees leaving the organization and the less competent ones staying. However, turnover of hired people (i.e. the need to fill gaps, conduct new recruitments, change the roles of individuals) is only the primary consequence associated with the dead sea effect.

Among the additional ones are the following: increased sickness absenteeism (due to, for example, the negative atmosphere in the company), lower productivity (due to the departure of “better” employees) and a general deterioration in the quality of work performed. “Weaker” employees are less inclined to take the initiative, carry out duties that are not theirs, or express their opinions, and what’s more, they don’t plan to leave a particular workplace, even if they don’t feel comfortable there.

How to counteract bad people management patterns?

What can be done to stop the dead sea effect? One key aspect is to increase opportunities for employee development. When employees have the opportunity to learn new skills, try their hand at another position or get promoted their motivation and commitment increase. Leaders should therefore invest in training, mentoring and development programs to create an atmosphere of continuous growth. Significance also includes:

  • Adequate communication – friendly and transparent communication between employees and leaders allows for a better understanding of expectations, constant provision of feedback and quick resolution of any problems. Regular meetings and active use of the communication platforms in place can help build bonds and trust within the team,
  • Positive organizational culture – creating an atmosphere based on mutual respect, trust and openness promotes greater employee engagement and motivation. Leaders should be role models for members of their teams, promoting organizational values and emphasizing integration and cooperation among employees,
  • Providing professional challenges – delegating interesting and challenging tasks is essential to keep employee engagement high. Special projects, promotions, job rotations, and participation in innovative projects are just examples of activities that allow you to explore your potential according to the needs of top talent.
What is the dead sea effect in the organization and how to deal with it? recruitment process and hiring 10

The dead sea effect – summary

We should emphasize that the dead sea effect is a clear example of how not to manage people in an organization. It also proves that management is not about attracting employees to a company but retaining them for a long time – especially when they are characterized by above-average skills (and thus provide broad employment opportunities).

However, let’s note that most situations an organization faces are reversible. By understanding the reasons behind bad practices and applying effective strategies to combat them (including those mentioned above), the team can be effectively revitalized. Doing so will restore employee motivation, which will benefit both the individuals employed and the company as a whole, leading to greater productivity and success in the long term.

If you like our content, join our busy bees community on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok.

What is the dead sea effect in the organization and how to deal with it? andy nichols avatar 1background

Author: Andy Nichols

A problem solver with 5 different degrees and endless reserves of motivation. This makes him a perfect Business Owner & Manager. When searching for employees and partners, openness and curiosity of the world are qualities he values the most.