How to Recognize Employee Disengagment

by | Feb 5, 2020

If there’s one thing that most everyone in leadership can agree upon, it’s that employee engagement is important.  We all want businesses that are thriving and that isn’t going to happen if our employees are apathetic and disengaged.  So, how do we avoid employee disengagement, and how do we fix it when it happens

First, we have to know what an engaged employee looks like before we can recognize a disengaged one.  Recently, I read an article at that explained how engaged employees are employees who “adopt the vision, values, and purpose of the organization they work for.  They are passionate contributors, innovative problem solvers, and stunning colleagues.” That sounds exactly like an office full of people that I’d love to have on my team. 

Unfortunately, over 50% of the workforce is described as being disengaged.  This isn’t good news for any of us. Why is this happening? For starters, people are complex and each of us have an infinite number of emotions and experiences affecting us at all times. So, there isn’t a simple one-way answer to describe employee disengagement, but there are a few common culprits.  They include:

  • A lack of autonomy: If an employee is constantly blocked from being an independent problem solver, they become disheartened. 
  • A lack of appreciation for their work: If an employee isn’t continually recognized or encouraged, it’s all too easy for them to feel unimportant.
  • Limited opportunity for advancement: While some employees may be content to stay where they are for an entire career, others are ambitious and ready to mobilize at any time. If the company they work for doesn’t offer them room to grow, they’ll “check out” sooner rather than later.
Jeff Ruby

Jeff Ruby

Founder & CEO of RedRock Leadership

During the course of his professional career, he has worked in organizations ranging in size from a sole practitioner to Fortune 500. Included in his experience are roles in starting and selling companies, sales and sales management, training and development and executive coaching.

RedRock Leadership is a sales training and leadership development company committed to growing companies by growing individuals through on-going training infused with the competencies of emotional intelligence.

Here are some early warning signs that employees are disengaged:

  • Silence, or an overall lack of participation: Look out for employees who aren’t into celebrating “the wins.” Lack of enthusiasm is a red flag.  
  • Complacency: When employees are excited to talk about new opportunities and enroll in training that will help them grow their skills, they’re “bought in.” If not, they may be disengaged.
  • Breaks from routines: When employees who were always vocal are now quiet, look to be sure they are on top of their work. If they’re disengaged, it’s time to check-in and see what’s wrong.
  • Exhaustion, cynicism, or inefficiency: These are all signs of employee burnout, which will eventually cause employee disengagement.

If you think these issues or any others are affecting your employees, you must act now. Your employees are directly responsible for much of your success.  Be sure to be on the lookout for anyone who needs your help. Ask questions and encourage communication. Get actively involved in conversations about your employees lives and their work, what they are looking for and how they view their experiences. Building trust and respect with your employees will go a long way in encouraging them to be engaged at work.

 Our focus must  be to kick disengagement out the door and block it from ever returning. Then, we can create an environment where every employee is empowered to motivate those around them with their positive attitude and strong work ethic. In my next article, I will focus specifically on that topic, and take a look at dispelling common myths about motivation.