5 Signs of Disengaged Employees and How You Can Turn Them Around

Engaged workers understand the purpose of their company and their role within the organization. They share their employer’s vision and work hard to achieve goals that support the company's bottom line. Employees who engage in the workplace pursue personal and professional development and aim to become more productive and valuable to their employer. Crucial to success in the current business landscape, employee engagement results in a sense of unity and passion that brings about innovation and productivity in the organization.

However, research on employee engagement paints a different picture. A 2015 Gallup study indicates that disengaged employees comprise more than 50 percent of the U.S. workforce, meanwhile actively disengaged employees account for an additional 17 percent. Employee disengagement decreases productivity, kills workplace morale, and produces unnecessary costs.

Use the following signs of employee disengagement to detect it among your employees early so that you can avoid negative repercussions.

Negative Attitude

Disengaged employees usually have negative attitudes about work and their environment. Patterns of complaining and gossiping often point to employee disengagement, as does disrespectful attitude towards superiors. Such negativity quickly becomes toxic, causing other team members to disengage.

What to Do?

Listen to what your disengaged employees say. Discover the underlying cause of disengagement, before flying off the handle or taking punitive action. Show your staff that you value them and appreciate their opinions. Encourage instructive criticism by patiently listening to everything they say. Listening helps you learn more about what’s going on inside your company and gives you a chance to improve.

Lack of Initiative

Employees who do the minimum amount of work to get by and show no ambition for advancement usually just lack the initiative and interest to stay in the company. Even when workers do a good job because of their personal values, they tend to show withdrawal through a lack of enthusiasm. One of the reasons for the lack of initiative could also be that these employees simply do not take pride in their work.

What to Do?

Employees need to feel like their job matters. Stop thinking about profitability for a while and evaluate your organization from an HR perspective. You might need to review your job descriptions and task definitions to make sure your employees have challenging tasks that they can complete and feel as though they have made a positive contribution to the company’s mission.

Make work fun by instituting friendly competitions between employees and teams. Clearly communicate the purpose of every task and break up tasks into small attainable chunks so your staff can always see the light at the end of the tunnel. Set milestones for ongoing projects, so your workers can always have goals to achieve and feel a sense of accomplishment by reaching them.

Drop in Productivity

Productivity losses increase costs and cause missed deadlines. If your company suddenly needs more time to perform the same amount of work, you could have employee engagement problems. The cause can range from tedious work to a lack of recognition. People filling so-called dead-end jobs often see no reason to maximize the quantity and quality of their output.

What to Do?

Identify the team members who seem to have productivity issues. Pay attention to everything they say and how they act. Discuss apparent problems with them without judgment. Encourage them to share their feelings with you as well as their opinions about changes that would motivate them.

Take proactive measures to improve overall motivation in your workforce. Acknowledge good work whenever you see it. Use job rotation and other tactics to increase the variety of work done by each employee. Create or improve training programs that will help employees perform better in their current roles and prepare them for advancement by teaching them new skills.

Uneasiness and Absence

Disengaged employees often exhibit irritation and agitation, causing disruptions in company workflows. Uncomfortable work environment often causes disengagement and dissatisfaction; prolonged exposure to unsupportive and aesthetically unpleasing layouts can cause problems for your entire staff as can environmental noise and cramped workstations. Even lighting and colors can affect attitudes.

What to Do?

Talk with your employees and encourage them to share the reasons behind their uneasiness and absenteeism. If you discover they have health issues, find out their causes. You can create a healthy, comfortable workplace by making simple environmental changes to your office.

For example, move work areas closer together (or farther apart) to improve proximity while balancing personal space. Replace worn out chairs with ergonomic units that relieve physical stress and increase comfort. Evaluate lighting and make sure everyone in the office has enough light to avoid eye strain. Paint walls with fresh, pleasant colors and hang attractive visuals on them.


Disengaged workers often suffer from isolation. Although some people prefer working alone, either in the office or from home, the isolation can take a toll on mental health and productivity. Workers can grow increasingly isolated and avoid teamwork and interaction with customers.

What to Do?

Evaluate the factors that have contributed to isolation and detachment. Restore a sense of belonging by sharing your challenges and goals with these employees. Exchange ideas with them about their particular jobs and the business in general. Gradually lead them back to an interactive role with your firm and help them recognize their importance to the company mission.

Wrapping it up

Disengaged workers cost your business lost time and productivity. If you make an effort to identify the causes of disengagement, however, you can build a healthy culture for your company. Regardless of the problem signs, use communication and acceptance to find solutions that make everyone on your team feel important and motivated. Your patient effort will unify your team and lay the foundation for a vibrant, engaged workforce that can compete on a global scale.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/HVybpEvpDlsO3aY9Xd4-Y7l3uH4ExRjobHgNQ1MtQC7IqmScb5F2t_cvw467rOr7zp2Yk1m7Qrf5lnRUlWpJf7Nt-3Cj5tN6rGZUynZ3rw8_U5V8hloNz297MZtZbzZlLODFeNQcPoy8q4CXXwBio: Natalie Smith is a Settle-based freelance writer who passionately explores all things related to small business, start-ups, entrepreneurship, marketing, and customer service. You can reach her @Natalie Smith

Get Ramon's Smart Hustle Insights.

Thursday - 2 PM EST

At Smart Hustle we inspire and educate small business owners to start and grow a successful business!

Every Thursday, get our Smart Hustle editor's insights to inspire and educate you!

Ramon Ray

Thanks for signing up!