4 Sins of Employee Disengagement


Employee Disengagement

Disengaged Employee

According to a recent Gallup poll, engaged employees make up less than a third of the US workforce. A little more than half of employees are not engaged, and a shocking 18 percent are actively disengaged. Millennials are the least engaged generation at 28 percent while boomers are the most engaged one at 42 percent. Millennial’s dissatisfaction results stems from the mismatch between the jobs they had hoped to receive after college and the reality of their employment situation.

Employee engagement, which reflects the emotional commitment an employee has to an organization is not just an organizational nicety but a business necessity due to direct ties to a number of performance outcomes, such as profitability, workforce productivity and customer service. As employees care more, they are more productive, give better service, and even stay in their jobs longer. The end result is then happier customers, who buy more and refer more, which will drive sales and increase profits. A 2012 report on human capital from McKinsey corroborated this hypothesis, noting that organizations with top scores in employee engagement are about 60% more likely to be leading and profitable companies in their respective industries.

The first step in re-engaging a disengaged workforce is to know how to identify it. Unfortunately, this can tend to be tricky as disengaged employees aren’t necessarily bad employees. They could have been some of your most talented and productive employees at some point. The ultimate indication of disengagement is the decisions people make to leave their job. While some people will stay in a role they’re not happy in, most will eventually choose to look for a new and better opportunity elsewhere.


Disengaged employees tend to only do what’s absolutely necessary of them to get the job done, without going the extra mile. Typically, they don’t take initiative, rarely work late and don’t give their jobs much afterthought when the day is over. So how do you spot them?


The four most common habits of disengaged employees include:

  1. Not caring attitude – Employees that display less interest or care for their work or their organization’s wellbeing are likely to be disengaged.
  2. Repetitive absenteeism – An employee who displays a pattern of absences is most likely disengaged. This indicates a decreased motivation to get the work completed on time. They could even be skipping work to attend job interviews.
  3. Poor quality of work – Failing to meet deadlines, or meeting deadlines with subpar work on a regular basis are signs of employee disengagement. This is evidence that an employee is less committed, especially if you have prior evidence of better performance.
  4. Permanent negativity – A previously high performing employee that consistently exhibits a negative attitude might be going through difficult times at home, or might be disengaged. Either situation must be addressed differently as is detrimental to the workplace.


Identifying and accepting the fact that you have a workforce engagement issue is the first step toward immobilising it. Choosing to be proactive and doing something about it is the next. Overlooking or evading the four previously enumerated habits of workforce disengagement is a common mistake leaders make.

It’s important to understand that every experience and interaction at work has the potential to influence an employee’s engagement level. Each person is unique, and to influence their commitment requires an understanding of what motivates them. The most important thing any leader can do to improve engagement is focus on the employee’s individual spirit as well as the team’s and to ensure that they are in complete harmony.

Employees tap into their internal positive energy to get the job done well. People who are energised typically choose to act in ways that promote success. But, when people are drained and discontent, they become more likely to disengage and behave in ways that jeopardize not only their own success but the team’s as well.

As a leader you need to take a proactive approach in improving the engagement of your team. You need to make engagement a priority by linking it to corporate performance objectives. Start by attracting and hiring people who want to be here. People who are passionate about your brand will tend to care more about your business and contribute better. Then, understand your team and deliberately influence the aspects that drives them. Give them the initial boost and then let them take ownership for their own spirit and level of engagement. It is crucial to implement a feedback loop to keep the engagement levels high.

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