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10 Signs of Disengaged Employees and Ways to Re-engage Them

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Employee engagement is vital for any organization that wants to succeed. When there is a proper employee engagement system in place, your employees will be more aligned with the organization’s values and goals.

However, all your efforts to achieve a workforce invested in the organization’s vision will become ineffective if you have disengaged employees. They can significantly impact productivity, profitability, and even workplace culture.

As a manager, recognizing disengaged employees becomes easier when you're familiar with the signs. In this article, we will look at the signs, but before diving into them, let's learn why your employees may be feeling disengaged.

Key Takeaways

  • Who are Disengaged Employees?
  • Looking at the Signs of Disengaged Employees in the Workplace
  • Understanding the Reasons Behind Disengaged Employees
  • Techniques to Re-engage Disengaged Employees

Who Are Disengaged Employees?

Disengaged employees often exhibit a lack of enthusiasm or passion towards their work. They often show low motivation and inspiration, leading to a sense of disconnection from their job and workplace.

While they may complete their tasks adequately, employees who are disengaged rarely put in extra effort to help the organization achieve its goals. They bid their time without truly investing themselves in their work and exhibit low employee engagement.

10 Signs of Disengaged Employees in the Workplace

Employee With Low Productivity

1. Decreased Productivity

Decrease in productivity not only affects employees but can also have wider implications for team and organizational performance.

When employees become disengaged, their productivity often takes a noticeable hit. Tasks that used to be completed promptly and efficiently may start to lag, or the quality of work may suffer.

The decline in productivity can manifest in various ways, such as missed deadlines, incomplete assignments, or a general lack of enthusiasm in the workplace.

Disengaged employees may also appear uninterested or detached during meetings or interactions with colleagues, impacting their ability to perform their best.

2. Increased Errors or Mistakes

Disengaged employees are more likely to make errors or mistakes in their work. This could be due to a lack of focus or motivation, resulting in a decline in the quality of their work.

When employees perform their tasks without a sense of purpose or enthusiasm, they may be more likely to cut corners or overlook important details, resulting in errors.

Additionally, disengaged employees may feel disconnected from their work or their team, which can also contribute to an increase in mistakes. This can have a ripple effect on their work quality, team morale and productivity.

Therefore, it's important for managers to recognize these signs early on and take steps to re-engage employees before their performance is significantly impacted.

3. Disinterest in Feedback

Employees Showing Disinterest in Feedback

Engaged employees are typically open to feedback and eager to improve. On the other hand, disengaged employees may show reluctance in receiving or giving feedback.

Employees who feel disengaged might seem indifferent or even defensive when feedback is offered. They show little to no interest in using feedback to enhance their skills or performance. This lack of interest shows that they are no longer invested in their professional development.

Moreover, disengaged employees may not take action to address areas for improvement even when feedback is provided. They may ignore suggestions or fail to follow through on implementing changes.

4. Shortcuts and Workarounds

Disengaged employees may begin to look for ways to avoid tasks they find challenging. Instead of following established procedures that ensure quality and efficiency, they may opt for shortcuts or workarounds.

For instance, a disengaged employee in a customer service role might start offering refunds or discounts without proper authorization to avoid dealing with customer conflicts. While this may temporarily appease customers, it can result in financial losses for the company.

5. Increased Absenteeism


Disengaged employees may start to feel disconnected from their work, leading to a lack of motivation to show up. They are more likely to call in sick or take unplanned leave which showcases their disinterest in the work.

It is to be mentioned that regular and unexplained absences can disrupt the workflow within a team or department. When an employee is frequently absent, it can lead to increased workloads for their colleagues and delays in projects.

Additionally, it can have a negative impact on team morale, as other team members may feel frustrated or resentful towards the absent employee.

6. Disengagement in Meetings

Meetings are a crucial opportunity for team collaboration, sharing ideas, and decision-making. Engaged employees actively participate in meetings, sharing their insights, asking thoughtful questions, and offering solutions to challenges.

However, disengaged employees may show behaviors that indicate a lack of interest or involvement in the meeting. They may appear distracted, or disinterested, often checking their phones, or looking around the room.

When called upon, they may offer minimal responses or avoid contributing altogether. Their body language, such as slouching, avoiding eye contact, or fidgeting, can also indicate their disengagement.

7. Negative Attitude

Employees who feel disengaged often complain about their workload, the company's policies, or their colleagues. This negative outlook can be contagious and spread to other team members, creating a toxic work environment.

Disengaged employees may also resist taking on new tasks or responsibilities, viewing them as burdensome rather than as opportunities for growth. This reluctance can lead to missed opportunities for innovation and improvement within the team.

Furthermore, disengaged employees are often pessimistic about the company's future. They may express doubts about the organization's direction or leadership, which can undermine team morale.

8. Poor Communication

Disengaged employees often struggle with communication. They may not communicate effectively with their colleagues or managers, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts.

Furthermore, disengaged employees may be reluctant to provide feedback or participate in discussions.

In such cases, it is important for managers to address communication issues promptly. Encouraging open and honest communication, providing feedback and clarification when needed can help re-engage disengaged employees.

9. Disinterest in Learning and Development Opportunities

Engaged employees are usually eager to learn and grow in their roles. In contrast, disengaged employees may show little interest in training or development opportunities.

They may view these activities as a chore or as irrelevant to their current role. They may resist attending workshops or seminars, preferring to stick to their familiar routines. This lack of interest in learning and development can hinder their professional growth and limit their potential contributions to the organization.

In this regard, managers can come up with ways to re-engage employees by highlighting the relevance of training opportunities and providing incentives for participation.

10. Withdrawal from Social Interactions

Engaged employees typically enjoy socializing with their colleagues and participating in team activities. While, disengaged employees may withdraw from social interactions.

They may avoid participating in team meetings or social events, preferring to work alone. Their withdrawal can be a sign of discontent, as it may indicate a lack of interest or connection to the team and the organization.

Furthermore, this withdrawal can have a negative impact on team dynamics and lead to communication breakdowns, decreased collaboration, and a lack of cohesion within the team.

Looking at Reasons Behind Disengaged Employees

Image Showing Disengaged Employees

1. Poor Career Growth

An employee is more likely to be engaged in their jobs if they feel that their career is going in the right path. On the contrary, if your employees do not get the necessary training to upskill themselves, then they might be less driven towards their job and become disengaged at work.
When employees face limited career growth opportunities, their jobs can become monotonous, leading to a significant decrease in job satisfaction. This can result in a workplace where employees are actively disengaged, ultimately affecting the organization's efficiency.

2. Limited Recognition

Recognition is an integral part of the company culture. Not only does it enhance employee morale, but it also improves the overall productivity of employees. When employees work well and get recognized, they feel valued and more attached to the organization.

On the other hand, if employees are not recognized often for their hard-work, it massively drops their confidence resulting in feeling disengaged. Furthermore, a lack of appreciation will significantly minimize the performance levels and make it difficult for the leaders to manage the employees.

3. Lack of Tools

Every employee strives to fulfill their job responsibilities effectively, but without the necessary tools and resources, their satisfaction with the workplace diminishes. Thus, resulting in low job satisfaction and increased levels of disengagement.

Therefore, understanding an employee's needs and requirements is crucial so that they can meet their expectations and contribute significantly to the organization's success.

When employees cannot meet their expectations, it gravely impacts their belief to perform, which creates a sense of doubt in their own abilities.

4. Lapse in Communication

To excel at their jobs, employees need constant feedback throughout the year. And this is only possible when there is total transparency of communication between the leaders and the employees.

However, if there is a lack of communication within the organization, the employees might feel lost with their work. They will not be able to analyze whether they are going towards the right path or not. This will eventually lead to employees feeling disengaged.

5. Micromanagement

Micromanagement occurs when a manager closely observes and excessively controls their employees' work. This can make employees feel suffocated, stifled, and lacking in autonomy.

When employees are not trusted to make decisions or manage their own tasks, they can feel disengaged and demotivated. This can lead to frustration and a decrease in productivity.

6. Burnout

Burnout can result from a combination of factors, such as high workload, long hours, and lack of support. Employees experiencing burnout may feel drained and detached from their work.

When the workload is consistently overwhelming or unrealistic, employees may feel pressured to meet deadlines. This pressure can lead to feelings of exhaustion and frustration, contributing to burnout.

Therefore, support from managers and colleagues is crucial for maintaining employee well-being and preventing burnout. You can also approach the problem with strategies to deal with it efficiently. It can include things like paid time off, paid vacations, etc.

7. Unclear Expectations

Unclear expectations can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and a lack of direction. When employees are uncertain about what is expected of them, it can lead to confusion, frustration, and a sense of aimlessness.

The lack of clarity can result in employees feeling like they are constantly guessing about what they should be doing, which can be demotivating.

Furthermore, when employees are unsure about how their performance will be measured and evaluated, it can create anxiety and stress. Without clear guidelines on what constitutes success in their role, employees may feel like they are working in the dark.

8. Poor Work-life Balance

Poor work-life balance occurs when employees feel that their professional work is taking up too much of their personal time.

Working long hours or consistently bringing work home can result in physical and mental fatigue. Employees may feel exhausted and drained, impacting their ability to perform well at work and engage fully in their personal lives.

A poor work-life balance can leave employees feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work and responsibilities they face. This feeling of being constantly under pressure can lead to burnout and disengagement.

Techniques to Re-engage Disengaged Employees

It is important to note that the issue of disengaged employees is not an easy task to solve. It requires correct planning and the right approach to help you solve the problem in the long run.

Below are a few ways HR leaders can tackle the issue efficiently:

1. Assess Your Workforce

Addressing the root cause of why the employees are disengaged is a good way to start. Therefore, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of the current state of your workforce.

This involves thoroughly assessing your workforce with the help of employee surveys, focus groups or one-on-one meetings. Ask about their level of satisfaction and any challenges they may be facing. Look for patterns or common themes among the responses to identify key areas for improvement.

Source: Vantage Pulse

Additionally, analyze quantitative data such as performance metrics, absenteeism rates, and turnover rates. This data can provide insights into the overall engagement levels within your organization.

2. Set Clear Goals and Expectations

Clear communication is essential for re-engaging employees who may feel disconnected or disengaged from their work.

Clear goals provide employees with a sense of purpose and direction. It helps them understand how their work contributes to the overall success of the organization.

When employees know what is expected of them and feel that their work is meaningful, they are more likely to feel motivated to perform at their best.

3. Recognize and Reward Employees

One of the most effective ways to re-engage disengaged employees is to acknowledge and appreciate their efforts and achievements. Recognizing employees publicly for their hard work can significantly boost their confidence and encourage them to go the extra mile.

In addition to recognition, rewards can also be a great way to recognize strong performance. This could include monetary rewards, such as bonuses or gift cards, or non-monetary incentives, such as extra time off or a personalized thank-you note.

The key is to choose rewards that are meaningful and relevant to the employee, as this will make the recognition more impactful. You can also take the help of platforms like Vantage Rewards to make reward and recognition a smooth experience for the workforce.

Source: Vantage Rewards

4. Make Work Meaningful

According to a recent Study, 71% of Gen Z employees would be willing to accept a reduction in pay event if it meant having a more meaningful job.

Employees are more likely to be engaged when they feel their work has purpose. Therefore, it's important for managers to help employees see the bigger picture by connecting their individual roles to the company's vision and impact.

When employees understand how their contributions directly contribute to the organization's success, they are more likely to feel valued and engaged. They can see how their efforts fit into the larger goals of the company and how their work makes a difference.

5. Create a Positive Work Culture

A positive work culture is one where employees feel valued, supported, and respected. This can be achieved by fostering an environment that encourages open communication, collaboration, and teamwork.

Moreover, when organizations focus more on their people, it positively impacts the workforce's overall engagement.

Collaboration and teamwork are also important aspects of a positive work culture. When employees are encouraged to work together towards common goals, it fosters a sense of camaraderie and mutual support.

6. Providing Development Opportunities

One effective way to solve the problem of disengaged employees is to offer them growth and development opportunities. This can include providing access to training programs, workshops, seminars, or conferences relevant to their roles.

Additionally, offering mentoring or coaching opportunities can help employees develop new skills and perspectives. This will help them evolve as an employee and make them experts in their field of work.

7. Promote Work-life Balance

Gallup Report saw a sharp drop in the percentage of employees who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall well-being.

Work-life balance is essential for employee well-being and engagement. One way to promote work-life balance is by respecting employees' time off. This means encouraging them to take their allotted time off and not expecting them to be available outside of regular working hours unless necessary.

Another way to promote work-life balance is by offering flexible work arrangements, such as flexible working hours or work from home options. This allows employees to better manage their work schedules around personal commitments.

8. Encourage Open Communication

Open communication helps build trust in an organization. Employees are encouraged to share their ideas, concerns, and feedback freely, knowing that their input is valued and respected.

The open exchange of information can lead to increased collaboration, innovation, and problem-solving within the team.

Additionally, regular check-ins between managers and employees are a crucial component of open communication. These check-ins provide an opportunity for both parties to discuss progress, challenges, and goals.

Summing it Up!

Employee disengagement is a significant issue that can negatively impact organizational performance and culture.

As HRs, being attuned to the signs of disengagement and taking proactive steps to reconnect employees with their work should be a top priority. And, with proper strategies to enhance employee engagement, you can cultivate an invested and motivated workforce that drives greater productivity.


Q. How can a company measure and assess employee engagement levels?

A. Companies can measure and assess employee engagement levels through various methods that include-

  • Employee surveys
  • Feedback sessions
  • One-on-one conversations
  • Observation of employee behavior
  • Analyzing Key Performance Indicators related to productivity, turnover rates, and absenteeism.

Q. What happens if employees are disengaged?

A. Employees who are disengaged are less likely to be productive in their roles. It can lead to increased absenteeism, lower morale, and higher turnover rates.

Q. What is an example of an actively disengaged employee?

A. An example of an actively disengaged employee is someone who consistently undermines team efforts, spreads negativity, and shows no interest in improving their performance.

This article was co-authored by Mrinmoy Rabha and Shikha Gogoi, who are part of the marketing team at Vantage Circle. For any queries reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com.

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