Most new hires in an organization work very hard to prove themselves to their supervisors and to management. Unfortunately, not all top performers continue to perform once they are passed up for promotions or they become uninterested in their position.
These employees are generally referred to as disengaged employees because they lack motivation and show up to work simply to receive a paycheck. In a flourishing economy where there are plenty of jobs, a disengaged employee will typically start applying for a fulfilling job, but in a bad economy they will stay with their current employer much longer.
Different Types of Disengagement
According to Gallup, only 31.5% of employees in 2014 were actively engaged in their work. The remaining 68.5% of employees were divided into two different categories: not engaged and actively disengaged. This means that there are two different types of employee disengagement.
Employees that are just not engaged are those that are going through the motions at work. They put the time into their jobs, but not the energy or passion that an actively engaged employee would. Actively disengaged employees, on the other hand, aren’t just sleepwalking through their day. They’re unhappy at work and are actively acting out that unhappiness. These actions can undermine the productivity of other, more engaged employees.
Signs of a Disengaged Employee
Employees that are disengaged at work can have negative effects on more than just their own work. A disengaged employee does not only affect productivity, but also affect office morale by spreading their own negative attitude throughout the office. Here are some habits you should look for to identify the employees who have already checked out—even when they are still physically present. Some employees may be less productive when they’re disengaged. However, others may exhibit other signs of disengagement but continue to be productive because of their own personal work ethic.
If your employee is often late, or absenteeism is becoming a problem, there’s a good chance they are disengaged. They are not making their job a priority—this could be because of personal issues or because of issues in the office. If the problem is with a single employee, have a face-to-face meeting to confront the problem head-on. If the problem is within a department, it is best to conduct a survey to find out whether leadership or processes are the issue.
Disengaged employees also often have a bad attitude. Bad attitude can include rudeness, contempt for coworkers and/or bosses, eye rolling in meetings, etc. If someone clearly doesn’t want to be there or doing the work, that negative attitude can affect the morale of the rest of the staff.
Frequent Social Media Usage
If a disengaged employee has access to social media, they’ll use it frequently throughout the day. Even if your company has a ban on personal devices in the workplace or blocks social media sites on the company network, employees who are disengaged will still find some way to slack off. Frequent social media usage is a symptom of employee disengagement, but it’s not the only one. Disengaged employees may take more breaks than other employees, for example.
If you hold office meetings and your employee always has an excuse for not attending these meetings, the employee may be disengaged. Engaged employees want to hear about new procedures, secure new clients, and get updated regularly. When an employee is evasive, they may pretend to be busy when they are actually spending their time figuring out ways to be evasive.
Lack of Enthusiasm and Initiative
Employees who are engaged are typically enthusiastic about their jobs. They have high morale and feel valued by the company. Employees who show a distinct lack of enthusiasm and interest in their work may be disengaged. Engaged employees will take the initiative to do more. Disengaged employees may be performing the bare minimum.
Dislike for Management
A disengaged employee may spread their hate for management in a number of ways. Even nice gestures from management can be seen as a reason to complain. This unjustified hatred is a clear red flag for disengagement.
The employee is so unhappy and disinterested in their job that they are trying to justify their negative feelings and spread negativity to their colleagues. The best step to take when this happens is to discuss why the employee is unhappy with management. If issues with a manager need to be addressed, it may show the employee you are listening.
Changes in Employee Behavior
Most engaged employees prefer to look their best every day. If an employee has been very social and personable in the past, and is now becoming isolated they may be disengaged. These uncharacteristic habits should be addressed immediately. It’s possible that someone quiet is just an introvert. However, if silence from an employee is uncharacteristic or is coupled with other bad or unhealthy behaviors, that’s a sign of disengagement.
Wasted Personal Time
An employee who is disengaged at work may also not be taking advantage of their personal time. Feeling uninspired in the workplace can affect an employee’s personal life as well. If an employee doesn’t seem to have any passions outside of work, that could be a sign of disengagement.
Why Do Employees Become Disengaged?
Employees can become disengaged for a variety of reasons. Some employees are disengaged because they’re not in the right job. As much as companies want to hire employees who want the job because they’re excited about the work, compensation is also a major reason why employees take a job. Especially in times of economic downturn or if an employee has high student loans, they may feel obligated to take whatever job they can get in order to pay the bills, regardless of how engaged they are with the work.
Some employees may be disengaged even if they’re in the right job. If the job is too easy and they don’t feel challenged enough, employees can feel disengaged. Bad management, low pay, lack of recognition, excessive workload, and more can also cause disengagement. If an employee is exhibiting signs of disengagement, it’s important to check into what might be causing the disengagement.
What Can a Company Do About Disengaged Employees?
Be observant, change your procedures, and do not let your workforce plague itself from within the organization! Before taking any action, it’s important to determine the cause of the employee’s disengagement. It may not be the employee’s fault. For example, if an excessive workload is the problem, then hiring on an additional person or transferring some of the work to coworkers with smaller workloads may help. If your company isn’t paying industry-standard salaries, then budgeting for higher salaries could improve engagement.
If you discover that you have disengaged employees, it’s important to first investigate and see whether thare are improvements within the company that can be made. However, disengaged employees do not only affect office morale, they can affect production and profits. Because of this you should take time to identify these employees and develop new policies to ensure that all of your employees stay motivated and interested in their jobs. If employees cannot snap out of it, you may need to consider written warnings and maybe even termination so that you can free up space in the organization for employees who want to be there.
Is your company looking for a HRIS to manage employee data? We can help you find the right software to meet your needs. Visit our Software Match page to be matched with the right software vendor.