When your workforce is engaged, there’s no doubt that you’ll notice extremely positive impacts on your business. Productivity, morale, and high performance are just a few of the benefits that engaged employees bring to a business.

Unsurprisingly, if your company has disengaged employees, it can have the exact opposite effect.

Disengaged employees can be harmful to your business, not only for the individual but for the morale and motivation of the whole team. Thankfully, if you can spot the signs that an employee is disengaged, there are a number of initiatives you can put in place to try to rectify the situation.

So, what are disengaged employees?

To kickoff, engaged employees are those who are passionate about their work. They genuinely want to do everything they can to help their company do well and be successful. When an employee is engaged, they work hard, find new ways of working and help drive the company towards its goals.

On the other hand, a disengaged employee has a very different mindset.

Disengaged employees are not emotionally committed to or proud of the organisation they work for. They don’t bring any energy or passion to their work and they are dissatisfied with their role or the company.

Put simply, they don’t want to be there – and they have no problem with showing this. This doesn’t just affect the productivity and output of that individual employee, their negative attitude can also impact those around them.

To help you find any disengaged employees in your company, we’ve put together the signs to look out for.

9 signs that your employees are disengaged

1. Productivity and quality of work has taken a downturn

If you’re noticing that your once hard-working employee is no longer creating the same output that they used to, it’s likely that your employee is no longer engaged in their work.

Not only will there be less of this work, but the quality of work may also be taking a turn in the wrong direction. This is because a disengaged employee is less concerned about the work they’re producing and therefore less likely to work to a high standard.

If that's not enough, another way to spot if an employee is disengaged is through their workload. A good sign of disengagement is if employees are frequently missing deadlines that they’d have easily met in the past.

Of course, it’s important to bear in mind that a downturn in productivity and quality of work can also be associated with a number of different reasons. Sit down with your employee and have an open and honest discussion to ensure that these targets aren’t being missed due to any personal issues or stress-related concerns.

You'll soon start to lose out on an individual’s output if their productivity issues aren't resolved. It's unlikely the employee works solo, so they could also start negatively affecting those around them. Forcing you to lose further productivity.

2. Withdrawal from the team

If one of your employees was once a social member of the team but has started pulling away, it’s likely they’re disengaged.

When employees would rather spend time by themselves, miss work socials and don’t seem to want to be a part of the team anymore, it’s important that you look into this.

Withdrawal can be a sign of many things, including issues between colleagues or even bullying. If you investigate and this doesn’t appear to be the case, it can also be a clear sign of disengagement.

Employees who no longer feel connected to the company remove themselves from any non-necessary activities and limit the amount of time they spend with people from the company.

3. Taking more breaks or time off without good reason

Of course, taking breaks throughout the day is important to keep productivity levels high, and offering these to your employees without breathing down their necks or watching the clock is a sign of trust.

But if an employee starts to abuse this trust and take longer and more frequent breaks, it’s a real sign that they’re disengaged.

When employees don’t care as much anymore, there’s a good chance that they won’t mind taking extra time at lunchtime or that bit longer at the coffee machine each time they go. Their behaviour can also start to rub off on otherwise engaged employees, leading them to join in this unproductive behaviour or question: “Why should I be working hard when they aren’t?”

Alternatively, engaged employees are much more likely to only take breaks when they have time to do so or need to do so for their wellbeing.

team looking disengaged in a meeting

4. There’s no appetite for challenge or responsibility

Engaged employees want to push themselves forward to learn and reach career goals. In turn, they’re more invested in the organisation’s success.

A disengaged employee may be one who has been a top performer in the past but is no longer interested in progress or new challenges. They might also pass up responsibilities that are good for progression or for which they’re the best fit.

It’s important that when you notice this happening, you dig a little deeper. Discuss with the employee what the motivation is behind their decisions and find out if the issues are with the workload, or if they’re disengaged.

This could also be a sign that an employee is looking to leave, as anyone with a long term commitment to a company would most likely be looking to impress.

5. Ignoring normal working times

Although we all have days where we’re feeling unwell so it takes a little longer in the morning or need to leave early to make that dreaded dentist appointment, when this is happening on a more regular basis – you guessed it – It’s likely that your employee isn’t engaged in their work.

When employees are disengaged, they almost make a show of turning up late and leaving early. They no longer care about keeping up appearances, so instead, they actively show that they don’t care for following the rules.

You might notice that your disengaged employee will take a ‘not my fault’ attitude about their lateness and start to make excuses. If this is happening consistently, it suggests that they’d rather be elsewhere.

This is something to be concerned about too, as your more engaged employees, who are still following the rules, may become disheartened when others don’t do the same.

6. A rise in absenteeism

When your employee seems to be taking more and more sick days, without good reason, it can show that they’re actively disengaged.

Everyone gets ill from time to time and it's important to give employees time off to recover. However, when an employee is taking sick days more frequently could be showing signs that they'd rather be elsewhere.

If you think this is the case, it might be worth sitting down with them and asking if everything is okay. It’s of course possible that they’re dealing with an issue they felt they couldn’t talk about. By initiating the conversation you may just prevent them from potentially burning themselves out.

bored employee avoiding work

Read next: How to choose the right employee engagement platform for your company

7. A more negative attitude

When an employee doesn’t feel that they’re getting the reward or recognition they deserve, they can become disengaged and negative towards the business. This can also be the case if they feel their wellbeing isn’t being prioritised by their employer.

Keeping employees engaged is a constant process and one that must be worked on. So if you let this slip, your employees might show the results.

8. Breaking away from routine

With engaged employees, you’ll be able to spot their routines and you can rely on them. When you see a change from this routine, you need to take a closer look at what’s going on behind the scenes. For example, when one of your team who you can always rely on to meet their deadlines, or respond to your requests for assistance, starts to stop.

When someone you rely on starts to change their behaviour, it's time to look into it, as this is a clear sign of disengagement.

9. There’s no yearning for learning

Asking questions, sharing inspiration or researching into different areas are all ways that an employee will show that they are highly engaged.

When an employee has no interest in progressing, learning or being part of the bigger picture, it's fair to say they won't be motivated towards the success of the business either.

If you’re encouraging your employees to learn and develop, and they show no interest in doing so, it shows that they have no desire to grow – at least at your company. Engaged employees will be thinking of their long-term career progression at the company, whereas those who are disengaged will not.

Ways to re-energise disengaged employees

If you recognise any of these signs within your teams, fear not, there are steps you can take to re-energise and re-engage your employees:

Ask more questions

In order to find out how to re-engage your employees, you first need to find out what’s caused them to switch off.

Many employees may not feel comfortable to openly discuss any points that they feel more negative about in your company or openly admit that they’re not feeling engaged. Running confidential surveys can be a great way to get into their mindset and find out what’s actively disengaging them.

By asking questions around the topics of company culture, management or poorly allocated responsibilities, you can find out what the cause of disengagement amongst your teams is. 

By gaining regular feedback, you hear about problems early and can work to find solutions before any issues grow into bigger problems. You can also check back to see if your solutions have worked, leading to a more structured engagement plan.

Recognise people’s efforts

Disengagement can often stem from employees feeling that they’re working hard for little in return. It’s important to show your employees how much you appreciate them and recognise their efforts. When you do, you’ll keep engagement levels high.

Our reward and recognition tool allows everyone in the company to celebrate each other’s achievements – so when an employee works hard, you can shout about it.

When employees feel recognised and rewarded for their efforts, they become more engaged. They’ll also be more motivated to go that extra-mile – as they know it won’t go unnoticed.

Organise frequent check-ins

An important part of being able to re-energise disengaged employees comes from managers knowing exactly what their team members are working on and what their goals and motivations are.

Weekly or monthly one-to-ones with managers and individuals can do wonders for engagement levels. These meetings give an opportunity for employees to openly discuss how they’re feeling. They also give managers a chance to talk about anything specific they’ve noticed in their employees’ work, and dig a little deeper into the reasons behind these if necessary.

And by having these meetings frequently, it keeps employees engaged by knowing that their managers are interested in their work and focused on their progression. They also give an opportunity to raise any concerns or blockers that the employee might be experiencing.


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