The workplace is evolving, and an increasing number of collaboration tools are making their way into the enterprise. This shift is allowing many employees to better work on their own terms and feel more productive and connected -- a cornerstone of the human-centered workplace.

However, when IT leaders can't meet employees' changing needs when it comes to their preferred work styles and technologies, it can cause feelings of frustration or neglect, which eventually lead to low morale, burnout, inefficient operations and turnover.

The Effects of Neglect

When employees feel neglected, they often take measures into their own hands and bring shadow IT (i.e. unapproved technology) into an organization -- opening the door to serious security threats like phishing or ransomware attacks -- which can result in the loss of critical IP, millions of dollars, public trust and more. 

New research from security firm Entrust Datacard reveals that poor IT leadership jeopardizes more than just security, it affects employee well-being and productivity.

Entrust Datacard surveyed 1,000 IT professionals ranging from members of the C-suite to junior analysts about their experience with shadow IT and uncovered a gap in IT leadership that is threatening more than just security.

I spoke with Mark Ruchie, Chief Information Security Officer at Entrust Datacard, to discuss the risks posed to an organization if IT leaders don't give employees the freedom to work with their preferred technologies. Here are the seven top risks we discussed:

1. Productivity plummets.

While it can be difficult to loosen the reigns, employees feel empowered when they're trusted to get the job done in the most efficient way possible. And efficiency looks different to everyone.

To some this means working remotely, and to others it means working across apps and devices. In fact, when employees are given the freedom to choose their own workstyles and use their preferred tools, they are more productive (97 percent agree). 

The challenge is to balance employee wants with the needs and requirements of security and risk management. Mark recommends that if it's going to increase productivity and satisfaction, IT leaders should work with company policy makers to strike this balance and make it a viable option.

2. Decreased employee engagement.

When an employee becomes disengaged at work, it can lead to a lack of motivation, diminished participation and burnout.

Moreover, getting an employee reengaged can be one of the trickiest and most time-consuming tasks due to both personal and professional factors. However, one factor of this equation is simple: 96 percent of employees feel more engaged at work when they are allowed to use their preferred technologies.

3. Reduced collaboration and increased isolation.

Cloud-based apps have changed the way we work. They've untethered us from our desks and given rise to the remote work revolution. Without them we would limit employees' ability to collaborate across teams and force remote workers into an increased state of isolation -- effectively stifling the progress we've made toward reaching the future of work.

While the number of new tools can be overwhelming for IT leaders, elimination is not the solution. In fact, it can fuel the problem of shadow IT. Limiting or banning new tools can inspire employees to use them in non-compliant ways.

Instead of ignoring them, Mark recommends IT leaders set up clear channels where employees can easily make new tech suggestions. This can lead to new governance processes that allow employee ideas to become sanctioned tools.

4. Employees feel ignored, frustrated and undervalued.

It's one thing for IT leaders to say they are open to employees' feedback, but it's another to follow through on them. Only 12 percent of IT departments follow up on all requests for new technologies, which can make employees feel ignored and frustrated.

By addressing these requests in a timely manner -- even sending a simple confirmation that a request was received -- leaders can reinforce that employee input is valued and taken seriously.  

5. Lack of loyalty.

Ninety-three percent of IT pros say that when employees are given the freedom to choose their own workstyles and use their preferred tools, they are more loyal to the company long-term.

And if they can't, they may take their talents elsewhere. In today's hiring landscape, freedom drives retention. An IT leader needs to offer employees flexibility to choose the best tools.

At the same time, security and compliance means that employees may not get everything they want. Ultimately, employees will stay where IT works alongside them to create a more productive workplace.

6. Internal conflict.

Most employees cherish flexibility, so when leadership micromanages them it creates tension -- especially when they don't feel management is open to rethinking traditional policies.

When it comes to IT management in particular, the data reveals about half of employees (46 percent) say that poor processes cause moderate to severe conflict between IT and other departments.

7. Diminished trust or fear of leadership.

One in five IT employees are uncomfortable speaking up about their shadow IT concerns because they don't want to get anyone in trouble. That makes sense considering termination is the most common punishment for an employee after just two offenses.

This suggests harsh punishments are only hurting your security goals by cultivating a culture of fear and reinforcing the idea that employees should fear, not trust leadership.

Of the 80 percent who are comfortable voicing concerns, most said it's because IT leaders are welcoming. Mark urges IT leaders to avoid overacting when employees voice potential security concerns and instead to be more open to discussing and finding a risk-based solution that works for everyone.

Taking this approach will reassure employees that they can escalate issues without feeling afraid of the repercussions to themselves or others.