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Home » Articles » Telltale signs you have disengaged employees (and how to fix it)

Telltale signs you have disengaged employees (and how to fix it)

Telltale signs you have disengaged employees (and how to fix it)

Like in other aspects of life, an employee’s interest in their work could dwindle over time. It is said that disengaged employees represent the majority of the workforce globally and have a higher chance of leaving.

In fact, one of the angles seen on the Great Resignation deals more with the issues of engaging both remote and in-house employees.

Whether you manage your own team or the entire operations of your business, you should keep disengaged employees motivated and committed to your company.

Read on to learn the telltale signs of disengaged employees and how you can fix this issue.

Why are your employees disengaged?

Employee engagement refers to the level of involvement, enthusiasm, and dedication staff members have in their work.

When employees are engaged, they take care of their work and their contribution to the company. They help the company reach its goals and objectives and not simply think about the next paycheck or promotion lined up for them.

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Gallup identifies the four levels in the employee engagement model as follows:

  • Basic or primary needs
  • Individual contribution
  • Teamwork and camaraderie
  • Room for growth

Disengaged employees are a sign that some of their needs are not met, or they have just moved on with their interests at work.

Some of the reasons for this include:

Why are your employees disengaged?


One of the main causes of employee disengagement deals with stagnation. Most employees may feel that they are doing the same tasks with the same job for years without any advancement or promotion.

Lack of team interaction

It is said that a person spends around 90,000 hours of their lifetime at work. Given humans’ social nature, it’s natural for an employee to interact with their teams every day.

Disengaged workers lack these interactions with their coworkers. As a result, they feel more detached from their tasks, causing them to lose their motivation.

Inadequate salary

Disengaged employees could also arise from inadequate salaries. Team members could get distracted by worrying about their daily expenses, especially when their salaries are not enough to cover them.

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Negative work environment

No matter how good their salaries and benefits are, disengaged employees will still exist in a negative work environment.

Long work hours, poor management, personal issues, and even toxic coworkers could make their motivation deteriorate over time.

Lack of connection with the company

Lastly, some disengaged employees cannot simply connect with their companies. They don’t think that their culture, vision, and goals align with those of their current employers.

Employees experiencing this could eventually resign and cut ties with their employers sooner.

Telltale signs of disengaged employees

Research from Gallup stated that around 15% of employees in the US are “actively disengaged” and showing unhappiness at their work.

While it could still be a small percentage for companies, disengagement could cost at least 34% of an employee’s annual salary. Actively disengaged employees can even tarnish productivity and company culture by painting the employer in a bad light.

The first step to re-engage disengaged employees is to identify the signs of having one. Here are some of the signs of a disengaged employee.

Lower employee productivity

You would easily spot disengaged employees through the decline in their performance. When a good employee gets lower performance levels, it could indicate that something is up with their engagement at work.

Yet, there are times when low performance does not automatically mean disengagement. Some engaged employees could still perform poorly, while disengaged ones do otherwise.

Telltale signs of disengaged employees

Decreased work quality

While employee performance may vary, a glaring sign of disengagement could be their work quality.

Disengaged employees might produce low work quality or show no interest in improving it since they don’t see their work as challenging enough for them.

Increased absences

Absenteeism is another noticeable sign that a worker is disengaged. Once an employee loses interest in their work, they tend to call in sick or disappear frequently.

Even when at work, they tend to always be “checked out” or inattentive. They would rather look at their phones and ignore everyone around them than put their focus on their daily tasks.

Absenteeism, especially unauthorized ones, could cost companies the time and salaries allocated to each absent employee.

Tardiness and increased breaks

Aside from absences, disengaged employees would always arrive late at work and go home on time. They have given up on doing their best at work. Even the bare minimum of going to work on time is a burden to them.

Once you confront this, they will either give excuses or become defensive instead of taking accountability for their actions.

At the same time, as much as employees would value flexibility in taking breaks, disengaged employees would dramatically shift their breaks over time. Watch out for employees taking more coffee or cigarette breaks than they usually do.

Lack of initiative to learn

Disengagement even affects an employee’s willingness to learn new things at work. They either ignore every opportunity for training and upskilling in the company or will accept it half-heartedly.

You would even notice this in every aspect. They rarely contribute ideas to the team and seem absent-minded in every one-on-one session. You would even find that they don’t talk with their managers that much.


Admittedly, your employees have different personalities. Even with some of your teammates being introverts, you might still find them talking to their coworkers when they get used to them. That’s one of their unique differences from disengaged employees.

Disengaged employees no longer care about their team or company and tend to feel isolated from the entire team. You might notice that they veer away from their coworkers and choose to be quiet in a corner.

However, this isolation can have other causes, including unnoticed toxicity in the work environment.

Defiance when doing tasks

Many disengaged employees tend to complain when given more tasks. You might have difficulties getting them to stay a few minutes past their shift when needed or giving them additional responsibilities, even for the day.

On the other hand, some would just accept them and give either a subpar or moderate-quality output.

Lack of participation within a team

A sudden lack of participation is an early sign of disengaged employees. You might feel that they have stopped participating in team activities and simple interactions, isolating themselves from the team.

They also tend to simply agree without giving out their opinions and ideas. Thinking their ideas do not matter, they’d rather keep their opinions to themselves.

Telltale signs of disengaged employees

Temper issues at work

One of the red flags for having disengaged employees is a change in temper. They tend to get angry with everyone around them more easily. You might even get badmouthed on social media for almost no reason.

At some point, disengaged employees may even mix their personal lives with their work, increasing their temper issues as a result.

Decreased customer satisfaction

Lastly, employee disengagement easily translates to customer dissatisfaction. Though everyone experiences a bad day at least once, disengaged employees would feel like every workday is a bad one.

They tend to give poor-quality service to customers as a way to show their dissatisfaction and disengagement with the company. You would notice this through negative customer feedback, and promoter scores you receive each day.

Get your disengaged employees back up with these tips

You must take action to reengage your team and motivate them to be the best at their work again.

As mentioned, high pay can only do much in getting their interests back. Here are a few tips you can do to reengage your workers.

Analyze your employees’ performance

Not all employees who underperform are disengaged. Look deeper and analyze why they give low performance and work quality first before assuming.

Have a look at how you manage their workload

At times, managers like you create disengaged employees with the amount and quality of workload they get. Take a look at whether you distribute your workload properly if anyone gets too many or too few tasks.

Have a one-on-one talk with them

Showing anger and disappointment without personally talking to them can only fuel their disengagement. Instead, have a one-on-one meeting with your employee and talk to them calmly regarding their case.

Recognize your employees’ good work

Sometimes, getting recognized for a job well done is enough to motivate your employees. As much as possible, recognize any job well done on their part.

Increase employee motivation through professional development

One of the best ways to engaging employees is by offering opportunities for professional development. Hold training sessions and activities that can stimulate their engagement more.

Establish constant communication

Make your employees feel that their ideas, opinions, and views matter in your team. Learn to develop internal communication and ask them about any concerns and issues they have.

Treat your employees fairly

Lastly, the best way to avoid having disengaged employees is to treat them fairly. As much as possible, consider their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations in working.

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