Disengaged Employees

7 Bad Habits of Highly Disengaged Employees

5 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland

We all know how great it is to work with engaged employees. The enthusiasm, drive and investment that bubbles up naturally in an engaged team are infectious – and amazing for building a thriving office culture. But there’s a flip side to every coin, and working with a disengaged team can be a real challenge. 

The most recent State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup found that only 21% of employees are engaged at work. Something very worrying for businesses, especially when you consider the Forbes report that suggests a single disengaged employee can cost a business thousands of pounds a month, due to lower productivity and increased absenteeism. 

The worst thing about disengagement is how insidious it can be. Sometimes that feeling of disconnect grows so slowly you barely realise it’s happening until it’s too late.

Here are the seven habits of highly disengaged employees and a few useful tips for getting things turned back around. 

Signs of Employee Disengagement

We’ve listed seven habits of employees who’re no longer feeling engaged at work so you can see if there’s anything to be concerned about.

1. Withdrawing from the team

When employees are disengaged, they tend to isolate themselves. If you’ve noticed someone starting to withdraw, not taking part in conversations around the kettle, being slow to respond to questions, or in remote teams, not participating or consistently keeping their camera off when others have theirs on, there’s a decent chance something is going on. 

2. A lack of enthusiasm for growth and learning 

The ability to grow and learn in a role is a fantastic way to keep employees engaged and excited about their prospects. That said, when they stop showing an interest in new advancement opportunities or training, it’s a clear indicator that they are mentally checking out of their position with you. 

3. Increased time off and absenteeism 

There are valid reasons why people take time off work. Still, if you have noticed a particular employee taking an increased number of sick days, there’s a possibility that it could be due to them feeling disengaged and distant from your team. This is why it’s essential to consider how the organisation looks after employee wellbeing

4. A dip in productivity and lack of care

One key sign that something is wrong is a significant dip in productivity or quality of work. This is typically very noticeable, especially when you have talented team members. It’s normal for people to have highs and lows when it comes to productivity, but a sustained lack of care or effort suggests a bigger problem. 

5. Negativity or a difficult attitude

When employees don’t feel recognised or appreciated, they tend to start having negative feelings about their organisation. And those negative feelings tend to slip out, which is bad news for any workplace. 

Negativity in the workplace can cost businesses up to $3 billion a year, according to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Watch out for any changes in attitude or negative outlooks – they could signify a much bigger problem. 

6. Disregard for expectations 

If you notice a disregard for the things that keep your workplace ticking over, like ignoring start times or blowing off meetings, there’s likely a serious issue at play. 

Highly disengaged people are unlikely to care very much about what their colleagues or employers think of them and may stop bothering to meet expectations. 

7. Taking excessive breaks

Another big indicator that someone has mentally checked out is an increase in the number of breaks they take – especially if they don’t make the time up in other ways. 

Some people prefer to work in short bursts, and allowing a flexible working pattern can be great for your team. But when someone is disengaged, they might start testing the boundaries of how many breaks they can get away with.

What to do when your employees appear disengaged

The first thing to remember is that while the seven signs of disengaged employees we’ve pointed out could be a good indicator that there’s something amiss, don’t jump to conclusions. 

Be an empathetic leader first and foremost, and check in with the people you’re worried about. There’s a chance there might be an alternative explanation. If you’ve given your employees a chance to share any concerns or problems with you and they’ve drawn a blank, then it’s time to reassess your employee engagement strategy. 

How to improve employee engagement 

Improving employee engagement is usually a multipronged strategy. A lack of energy and motivation can quickly become an endemic problem, and the best way to deal with it is to reassess how robust your workplace culture is and where you may be letting your employees down. 

Find out what they’re looking for

Because there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to creating a thriving office culture, one of the most useful things you can do is create a compelling employee engagement survey. 

This will help you see where you’re going wrong and which areas work. If you’re unsure where to start, check out our guide to choosing effective employee engagement survey questions

Get used to giving and taking feedback

Honest and constructive feedback is the lifeblood of any organisation. An efficient free flow of information allows growth and improvement and stops issues or problems from becoming increasingly difficult or insurmountable. 

Feedback is essential for fostering strong connections and building trust within teams and between employers and employees – those connections tend to help people stay engaged too. 

Create a culture of appreciation 

Employee appreciation is critical to increasing engagement. People who feel respected, recognised and appreciated feel better and work better. They also tend to be far more engaged in their workplaces than people who feel ignored. 

For insight into just how important it is to show how grateful you are for your employees and the skills they bring to your organisation, check out our webinar on building a culture of appreciation

Introduce regular recognition and rewards

Make it easy to show your employees just how valuable their contributions are by introducing a reward and recognition program. From peer-to-peer feedback to perks like restaurant vouchers, the recognition employees receive has real value – and is a huge driver of engagement. 

Our platform can help you go beyond traditional employee rewards & recognition to improve employee engagement and take your colleagues to new heights. 

Transform your culture with Mo

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  • Build a collaborative culture
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Disengaged Employees: Key Takeaways

  • Employee disengagement can have detrimental effects on workplace culture and productivity, with only 21% of employees globally reported as engaged at work.
  • Signs of employee disengagement include withdrawal from the team, lack of enthusiasm for growth and learning, increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, negativity, disregard for expectations, and excessive breaks.
  • To address disengagement, leaders should prioritise empathy, check in with employees, conduct engagement surveys, encourage feedback, foster a culture of appreciation, and implement regular recognition and rewards programs like Mo’s platform to improve employee engagement and morale.

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