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5 Warning Signs Of Disengagement (& What You Can Do About It)

5 Warning Signs of Disengagement (& What You Can Do About it)

Disengaged employees make up about 50% of the American Workforce. These employees erode an organization’s bottom line, while breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process. Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates this cost to the bottom line to be more than $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity alone.

The key to minimizing disengagement is to recognize the early warning signs and address open the lines of discussion to the team member early.

Here are the top 5 warning signs of disengagement:

Clock Watching

To be fair, most of us start to down shift as it gets closer to quitting time. The disengaged employee however starts to watch the minutes tick by as soon as they get to the office.  She arrives at the office at 7:59 for an 8:00 start time, counts down the minutes until lunch and begins packing up for the day at 3:45.

Sloppy Work

These are members of the team who want to do the bare minimum to get through the day. Additionally, the quality and the quantity of the work steadily decreases.  This could mean missed quotas, missed deadlines, inaccuracies, little creativity and lots of procrastination. When an employee isn’t interested in their work product, there may be a bigger issue at hand.

Lack of Initiative  

Perhaps you’ve noticed that Mike is not contributing new ideas during meetings or even asking questions. Mike has stopped asking for new assignments or challenges. He no longer seeks ways to improve processes. In fact he’s protecting the status quo and actively rebelling against change.  Gone is Mike’s creativity, initiative and willingness to help his team members.

No Interest in Development

When is the last time Jessica shared an article of interest about your company, marketplace trends, or interesting research dealing with her role? When is the last time she shared anything at all? Curiosity is a good sign that an employee cares about her work and the organization.  If you encourage learning and growth and employees don’t share your enthusiasm, it’s time to take a closer look.

Negative Energy

Kevin constantly complains. If you happen to see him in the break room, he uses the opportunity to whine about management’s newest social media policy or blame another team member for that project that went off the rails. You no longer have lunch with Kevin because all he wants to talk about is how he should have been promoted over your current manager…3 years ago. Kevin is defeatist, defiant, and not interested in helping others.

What You Can Do:

The first and most critical step in addressing disengagement is to notice it. As you see behaviors that are out of the ordinary, make note. Then have a conversation with the employee. Ask them how things are going, what do they think of their position, their tasks. Solicit ideas on how tasks can be better executed. Seek out their constructive feedback as well. This gives the employee ownership of the position. Ask “what do you need to be successful?”

Get them thinking about the bigger picture. In your regular 1:1 meetings and even in your team meetings, remind your team members of the impact their contributions have to the team and to the success of the company. Consistently connect the dots between individual contributions and strategic objectives.

Also in your 1:1 meetings, discuss the team member’s professional goals. What do those goals look like? What kinds of assignments, training or programs will help accomplish those goals? Ask, “How can I help you get from here to there?” This should be an ongoing dialog.

In cases where the employee has “checked out” completely and you have taken the aforementioned steps, it’s time to try a different approach. Typically by this time, performance issues are evident. Additionally the disengaged individual may also display disruptive behaviors such as gossip, destructive criticism and the blame game. This is where the conversation moves from coaching to performance improvement. In these conversations, be specific about the performance measures that are off track and use specific, non-judgmental statements about observes behaviors and the impact those behaviors have on the team and organization.

Finally-it’s important to take values, cultural fit and an individual’s intrinsic motivators in mind during the hiring process.  This will set you, your team and your company up for maximum engagement!


Would you like to learn more about employee motivation and engagement? I’m speaking about this topic on November 15th in Scottsdale. Check out the details hereVisit us online or give me a call at (888) 529-0240.

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