Keeping employees interested and engaged with their work is critical to the success of any business. With the turbulence and job market fluctuations we’ve witnessed during the pandemic, employers are motivated to keep workplace engagement front and center to reduce turnover rates. 

According to Gallup, 36% of US employees say they are engaged at work. On a global level, this number falls to 20%. When workers are disengaged in their work, they’re less likely to put forth their best effort and may experience lower morale, which can impact the entire team. 

Managers can combat disengagement with a few tried-and-true tactics which you’ll learn about in this article. 

Understanding the Root Causes of Employee Disengagement

Employee disengagement doesn’t occur in a vacuum — it’s frequently triggered by both internal and external causes that must be understood before you can take action. The most common root causes of employee disengagement include:

  • Unsatisfactory pay: Employees who feel they aren’t fairly compensated for their work and time are more likely to disengage from their work. These employees will ultimately start looking for other opportunities that offer higher pay. 
  • Lack of career development opportunities: Employees who aren’t given opportunities to learn new things and advance in their positions will usually exhibit signs of disengagement. Establishing a career development plan for each employee can help you retain your talent and keep them engaged. 
  • Poor management: People don’t quit companies – they quit bad managers. Employee disengagement is often the result of incompetent management. Although there are various types of ineffective management, “absentee leaders” have the greatest impact on employee morale. These are psychologically absent managers who fail to build meaningful connections with their teams. This leads to high-stress levels and low employee morale – and, eventually, active disengagement.
  • Stressful work environment: Burnout is one of the major issues plaguing the modern workplace. In fact, 84% of Millennials say they have experienced burnout. Burnout is also one of the primary reasons why employees decide to leave a company.

5 Common Signs of Employee Disengagement and How to Address Them

Disengaged workers can have a negative impact on more than just their own job. In addition to decreases in productivity, disengaged employees can also impact team morale and create friction. Knowing how to spot the signs of disengagement can help you take proactive measures to re-engage your workforce and create a positive work environment. 

1. Absenteeism

Disengaged employees are often late to meetings or group activities. They may also call in sick more often than engaged employees. When you notice that absenteeism is becoming a common occurrence with a particular employee, chances are that the employee has become disengaged. 

Solution: Have a one-on-one conversation with the employee to better understand why they are absent from work. Listen carefully to what they have to say because disengagement doesn’t have to be related to work. Your employee might be going through a difficult time in their personal life. If that’s the case, show empathy and support your employee through this difficult time. 

2. Negative Attitude

Disengaged workers will usually exhibit signs of rudeness and disrespect toward coworkers. This negative behavior can impact the entire team, bring down morale and decrease productivity. To prevent these from spreading through the entire team, you need to take immediate action. 

Solution: Try your best to understand why the employee is exhibiting signs of a negative attitude toward colleagues. Determine if there is a bigger, underlying issue within the team or organization. You could potentially offer additional training to help your employee learn how to communicate effectively

3. Evasive Behavior

Engaged employees want to learn about new techniques, land new clients, and receive regular updates. In contracts, if you notice that an employee is constantly finding ways to avoid attending meetings or group activities or doesn’t contribute to the discussion, this might be a sign that they’ve become disengaged from the work and team. 

Solution: Have a conversation with the employee to determine if their disengagement is the result of a personal matter or it has to do with their work. Burnout or a toxic manager are the most common causes of evasive behavior among employees. Read our article on toxic work environments to learn how to spot the signs. 

4. Lack of Enthusiasm

When people are engaged at work, they are often excited about what they do. They have a good sense of morale and feel that they are well-liked within the organization. Employees who aren’t passionate about their work will often do the bare minimum, showing you indirectly that they’ve become disengaged. This may lead to lower productivity and could impact your bottom line. 

Solution: The solution to this issue is dialogue. You need to show empathy to the employee. Consider organizing a debate within the organization and team where everyone will have a chance to give ideas on how to improve the workplace atmosphere. Charitable team building events are also a great way to help your team build meaningful connections by rallying behind a humanitarian cause. 

TeamBonding’s The Donation Station team building program focuses on giving back to those in need. Your team will have to assemble as many donations as possible in a limited amount of time, and donate the goods to an organization of their choice. The goal of this program is to energize your team and encourage collaboration. 

5. Unwillingness to Expand Their Skills

The competitive nature of today’s business environment requires employees to upskill to stay competitive and relevant. Employees who are unwilling to expand their skills and grow within the organization are likely to be disengaged. In turn, this could lead to your organization falling behind competitors. 

Solution: Foster a culture of learning within your organization. Give employees opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills by offering to pay for courses or additional training. Show your employees how their work contributes to the success of the organization and why they are an essential piece of the puzzle. 

TeamBonding’s Essential Pieces program motivates your employees to work together closely to complete a difficult puzzle. To be successful, everyone on the team must contribute to reveal a masterpiece that will leave everyone feeling excited about achieving transformation through working together.

Take the Next Step to Re-Engage Your Workforce

Engaging disengaged employees is a process that requires a strategic approach. You need to pinpoint the root cause of dissatisfaction among your employees. Having an open discussion with your team or individual employees will help you understand if the issue is of a personal nature or is related to the culture within your organization. Once you have identified the root cause, you can start implementing techniques to make working for your company a more enjoyable experience. 

Organizing team building events is an effective mechanism for connecting your team and building morale. TeamBonding has decades of experience in engaging diverse teams through carefully thought out events and programs that help you achieve a specific outcome. Browse through our growing catalog of engaging team building events, and find the one that is best aligned with the needs of your team.

Vipsania Pimentel

Team Contributor


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