What is a Disengaged Employee? How Can You Identify Them?

Feb 26, 2015
2 min read
Employees must be motivated and engaged to perform well. Here's how to identify disengaged employees and tips for how you can re-engage them in their role.

A disengaged employee is someone who usually doesn’t enjoy their work, and as a result, does the bare minimum, doesn't put in extra effort, and is highly unlikely to be a company evangelist. If that sounds bad, those who are actively disengaged are consciously causing problems at their companies.

As a manager you are probably well aware of the negative effects disengagement can have on your team’s productivity and ability to maintain high morale in the workplace. Even just one naysayer can create an environment more concerned with what’s going wrong than working towards company goals and the team’s greater well being. But since you carry that manager title it’s likely you are somewhat removed from the rumblings that may be going on beneath you.

So how can you spot the symptoms of a disengaged employees and nip bad habits in the bud in order to keep your dynamic culture in place, before the effects of their attitude runs rampant and snowballs into something much bigger?

In this blog post, we’ll highlight some of the common characteristics that might be displayed by disengaged employees and also suggest some fixes to prevent disengagement and remedy the warning signs.

Disengaged Employee Symptom: Disinterest

Definition: lack of interest in something.

Are you noticing an employee seeming less likely to take on new projects, avoiding deadlines, or lacking interest in the tasks at hand? These are just some of the common outward signs of a disinterested and disengaged employee might exhibit. Of course, there can be other causes and reasons for the aforementioned but if it’s becoming apparent, why not have a conversation and ask what’s going on?

Solution: Take Interest By taking notice of this change in behavior you can show your employee that you’re aware something is going on. Have a constructive conversation that is focused on an explanation for the disinterest and solutions for the problem.

Disengaged Employee Symptom: Defiance

Definition: open resistance; bold disobedience.

Flat out refusing to do something or resisting suggestions, feedback, or help can be another way employees display their disengagement. Is someone more insubordinate than usual or are others in the organization feeling less inclined to work with this person? It’s time to intervene to see what is going on.

Solution: Ask Questions Simple questions about the bad habits you’ve noticed in the workplace can get to the root cause of the defiant attitude. There could be a number of factors, and there’s no reason to avoid the conversation when sometimes just asking a couple questions can remedy the situation and get everyone back to working together again.

Disengaged Employee Symptom: Defeat

Definition: demoralized and overcome by adversity.

Has a team member been working on a tough project, missed an important deadline, or lost a huge sale? Everyone handles work stress differently and feeling like you failed at a project or failed your team can lead people to feeling defeated.

Solution: Motivate As a manager recognize the signs and step in to offer some much needed motivation. Not everyone can succeed at everything they do and sometimes a simple “you’ll get em next time” can pick that person up and having them holding their head high again.

Another way to keep employees engaged and on track is to ensure that they have specific goals and objectives to attain that are tied to larger company goals. You can achieve this easily with an automated employee performance management solution like Xactly Objectives.

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Karrie Lucero
Karrie Lucero
Content Marketing Manager

Karrie Lucero is a Content Marketing Manager at Xactly. She earned marketing and journalism degrees from New Mexico State University and has experience in SEO, social media and inbound marketing.