These Are Key Signs of Disengagement You Need to Pay Attention To

These Are Key Signs of Disengagement You Need to Pay Attention To

Most HR professionals understand the importance of boosting engagement among employees. When employees are engaged on the job, productivity, efficiency, and retention all improve.

However, some managers, HR departments, and executives make the mistake of assuming their employees are more engaged than they actually are. If your company seems fine from a broader financial perspective, it can be easy to miss or ignore the signs of disengagement in your employees.

That’s why it’s important to communicate with managers and executive leaders about the importance of looking out for the following signs of disengagement in your staff. Identifying a problem is the first, most crucial step toward solving it.

Lack of Initiative

Don’t make the mistake of assuming employees that perform well are necessarily engaged. While poor performance can be a sign of disengagement, good performance could simply indicate an employee has a strong work ethic. They’re willing to put in the effort to do their work and meet expectations, but that doesn’t mean they are interested in going the extra mile for the company or sticking around for long.

You can better determine which high-performing employees are engaged and which are not by providing additional (but optional) training opportunities for them. Those who are at least somewhat engaged will take advantage of these opportunities to grow. Workers who are not engaged likely won’t.

Beyond being a way to identify engaged vs. disengaged workers, providing employees with chances to build their skills is also an effective way to boost engagement. Even if workers aren’t engaged now, that may change when you implement this strategy.


Poor Communication

Engaged employees want to actively participate in the organization’s success. They’re interested in what’s going on within their team, their department, and/or the company as a whole, and they have opinions or ideas about this. They tend to communicate often and openly—by communicating with their manager frequently, speaking up during meetings, or talking with members of other departments to learn how everyone’s work fits together.

Disengaged employees, on the other hand, frequently communicate passively. They take instruction, complete their tasks, but don’t look for opportunities to share their input. They don’t seek out conversations with their managers, members of other departments, or anyone else.

This is an important red flag to look out for simply because it may reveal a need to make changes to your workplace culture. It’s possible employees don’t want to communicate because they feel their ideas aren’t welcome. This results in disengagement. Luckily, you can coordinate with managers to address the issue, making sure employees are encouraged to share their thoughts.


Engaged employees are still human. They need to take breaks, just like anyone else, but that doesn’t always mean they will.

Plenty of employees feel the need to work long hours, skip vacations, and take on more responsibilities than they can manage. At first, their dedication and intense approach to work may seem to boost productivity. In the long run, though, it’s more likely to result in burnout.

You’ll know this is happening when previously engaged employees start to exhibit signs of stress. They may be more prone to anger, irritation, and a general cynical attitude. Their performance might suffer. They may miss deadlines or make more mistakes than usual.

Burnout must be addressed at both the individual and organizational level. It’s essential that your company’s managers and executive leaders know that overworked employees are less productive over the long term. Employees should be encouraged to use their vacation and sick time, and to avoid taking on more work than they can handle. Meanwhile, managers shouldn’t overburden their employees or take advantage of an eager employee’s tendency to say “yes” to everything. If managers find they aren’t meeting productivity targets with their current team, they should be encouraged to discuss the subject with HR. It may be that their teams are understaffed.

Changing your organizational culture to make work/life balance a greater priority won’t happen overnight. It’s an effort the entire organization must undertake together, with support from executive leadership.



Before considering this point, remember that some people are introverts. These people may not spend much time with their coworkers simply because they are naturally shy and reserved, not because they’re disengaged.  

However, employees who engage with the rest of the workforce are more likely to be engaged with their jobs. They’re also more likely to stay with the company.

This gives you another way to measure disengagement. Maybe a manager notices that a worker who used to be more socially involved in the company now tends to favor isolation. They used to attend company events, but now they almost never show up. In the past, they socialized with coworkers during lunch, but now they prefer to eat alone.

This behavioral shift doesn’t tell you why an employee is disengaged, but it does tell you that he or she is probably much less passionate about work than before. You still need to identify the cause and what the company can do to remedy the problem, if anything.

That’s an important point to keep in mind. You can’t always be confident you know why your company’s employees are disengaged. While the information here will help you notice when there’s a problem, it’s also a good idea to distribute anonymous surveys that ask questions about how the company can better support employees’ needs. The anonymity of such a survey may help people answer honestly.

Don’t panic if you find disengagement is a problem at your organization. It’s actually a relatively common issue. Fortunately, when you know about this problem, you’re able to start fixing it.

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