5 Ways to Recognize a Disengaged Employee and How to Re-Engage Them

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We’ve all heard the great things that engaged employees do for companies. They can increase customer ratings, bump profitability and productivity by more than 20%, and increase innovation within the companies in which they work.

Sadly, disengaged employees are likely to make up the bulk of your workforce and account for as much as 70% of a company’s people. According to Gallup there are three levels of employee engagement: engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged.

Engaged employees are the ones making a difference to your business every day. The disengaged are relatively easy to spot; they are the ones who look miserable. The bigger and less easy to spot group are the ‘not engaged’; they make up around 50% of the American workforce and blend in easily with the rest of your team.

Aside from the obvious indicators – low energy, lack of enthusiasm, bad attitude, absenteeism, and high social media use – there are other ways to spot the employees who are draining rather than building your business. Then you can act to stop them slipping further and move them towards becoming a part of the engaged workforce.

With the right combination of employee feedback and management strategy, you can succeed at re-engaging employees that are not already too far gone.


Lack of Initiative

Not all of your unengaged employees will have a poor work ethic. Although employees may feel disconnected from the business, their performance may remain at a reasonable level due to their personal work ethic, or because they find their work too easy.

Try observing how motivated people are in different situations. Additional requests and voluntary tasks that aren’t acted upon by the employee are good indicators that they are not engaged.

Talk to them about their work and aspirations for career development, and then follow up on their responses to help push them towards engagement.

Unhealthy Behavior

How often are team members taking a break for snacks, coffee, or other distractions? When people feel a void in their personal or professional lives they sometimes try to fill it with unhealthy behaviors. Motivated people, on the other hand, find fulfilment through attentively working through their day with little-to-no interruptions.

One way to combat this is to remind employees that you and the business are actively interested in everything they do throughout their working day. Mention that you’ve noticed the behavior and ask if there is anything you can help them with. Showing that you care and reminding them that your role is to support them helps encourage productivity throughout their working day.

Silence is Not Always Golden

Some people are less talkative than others, and that’s okay. However, when their team or the company is celebrating success and they show absolutely zero excitement or pride in the achievement, you have an engagement issue.

Try talking less and get them talking more. Engage staff members with leading questions and encourage their feedback on the organization, their work, and challenges they are facing. Often employees become disengaged if they feel their voices aren’t being heard.

Stagnated Development

Curiosity and a willingness to grow and learn are good indicators of engagement, just as the opposite is an indication that team members are not engaged. Has an employees stopped sharing information about research related to their role, marketplace trends, or industry developments that affect your business? It could be that they feel there is no clear path for advancement in their role and are disengaging from your business.

Set clear goals with your team and help employees spot opportunities for development of their strengths and overcoming weaknesses. This way they can see their own growth and have reason to reinvest emotionally in the organization.

Lost Weekends

When we are unhappy or stressed in one area of our lives, the feelings and effects often bleed into other areas. If people are sleeping their weekends away rather than using them to pursue personal interests, it’s likely they are not engaged during their working day.

Open communication is key. Get to know what your employees are doing inside and outside of work. Find common points that will help you to relate to each other and build relationships with your team so they feel comfortable coming to you to ask for help if difficult challenges arise for them, in or outside of work.

Disengaged and ‘not engaged’ employees are not lost causes. Communication is often at the heart of disengagement. Remembering communication is a two-fold skill – talking and listening – will help you to re-engage your workforce and develop emotionally engaged, creative, and vocal teams that are willing and able to take your business further.

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course. Follow her on Twitter @araesininthesun

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