Spotting Disengaged Employees

A disgruntled or wronged employee is very easy to spot. But what if you have, instead, an employee who is simply disengaged? The warning signs are different than what you may notice with an unhappy employee. Additionally, there are separate steps you should take as the employer to get them re-engaged.


New jobs often result in a positive and invigorated new hire on the team. After the honeymoon phase, employees start to fall into their day-to-day routine and may feel unappreciated or forgotten. “After 12-months on the job, employees are expected to work more autonomously and take on added responsibility. At the same time, aspects of their job that at first seemed novel and interesting may lose their luster.”[1]


Identifying a Disengaged Employee
Employees who are disengaged are typically those who are easily distracted, show a decline in meeting participation, are resistant to change or are constantly unable to meet deadlines regardless of the lead-time.


The bigger an organization gets, the more need there is for employees to feel like they are being included in the growth plan. As initiatives roll out, disengaged employees will resist the implementation of the initiative or will be one of the last folks onboard. Similarly, employees who are known for their bright and cheery demeanor may appear suddenly unsocial or unusually quiet and reserved.


Additional signs of disengagement can include:

  • Lack of enthusiasm or initiative
  • No desire to grow professionally
  • Avoiding colleagues or group activities
  • Openly demonstrates disinterest in work


Re-engaging an Employee
Acknowledging there is a problem with an employee is the first step to fixing an issue with a disengaged employee. Some ways to boost engagement and reenergize employees include:

  • Improve team communication and collaboration.
  • Have a meaningful face-to-face conversation with the employee(s) in question.
  • Find out what is affecting the employee or preventing them from fully engaging.
  • Spend some time reflecting on any company-wide issues that may be affecting certain employees over others.


Company-wide issues often are remedied by formal training or implementing a 360-feedback program. This type of full-circle feedback allows employees to provide managers direct feedback and suggestions, in addition to gaining insight into their own professional areas that could use more attention.


Additionally, consider establishing a formal training process to ensure managers are using best practices to define goals and expectations, cross-team communication, and feedback. This is typically done by transforming a manger’s mindset into that of a coach. For example, using a coaching mentality, managers can better leverage the individual and unique talents of employees, therein boosting productivity and benefitting the team as a whole.


Finally, ensure all managers have the tools they need to be successful in not only managing their team but keeping employees engaged and enthusiastic about their day-to-day work. Use professional development plans and review regularly.


Disengaged employees will require a bit of effort to get them back on track, but it can be done successfully. Regardless of your personal perspective, maintain a non-judgmental view of the situation, aiming to show commitment to the employee and their employment at your company.


Human Capital helps hundreds of clients around the country manage their people, accomplish goals, and improve company culture. Contact us to regain organizational peace-of-mind and work to reengage employees who appear disconnected.




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