3 Signs Your Employees Feel Disengaged at Work

Work is a considerable portion of our days and lives. As a leader, it’s up to you to make it as positive and fulfilling as possible for your team. One of the best ways to meet your employees’ needs is to monitor their engagement levels and offer adjustments to help them reconnect.

What Is Employee Disengagement?

Employee disengagement can manifest as a slow working pace, lack of interest and being easily distracted. A disengaged employee may possess a negative attitude toward their work, which can cause a decline in your organization’s overall productivity levels.

Levels of Employee Engagement

There are three primary levels of employee engagement. These levels are engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged. Typically, only 30% of the workforce falls into the engaged level.

Not Engaged

Recognizing employees represented by this percentage requires a leader who is not only paying attention to important cues, but also willing to initiate and invest in the relationship to both understand and investigate root causes.

Actively Disengaged

Recognizing employees in this category usually doesn’t take much exploratory acumen or management experience. They tend to let you know right where they are on our continuum every chance they get!

What Causes Employee Disengagement?

While a variety of elements can contribute to employee disengagement, the four top factors include:

  • A lack of organizational support from supervisors, co-workers and the overall company
  • A lack of creativity or rewarding challenges in the position
  • A lack of control over job functions, such as the approach to completing assignments
  • A lack of job resources, like support and career development to supplement the work

3 Signs of a Disengaged Employee

Signs of Employee Disengagement

Some signs of employee disengagement may be obvious, such as frequent absences, low energy and a poor attitude. However, disengagement occurs over time, and you may only notice signs once they become severe. Look out for the following signs of disengagement so you can offer support.

1. A Decline in the Quality of Work

If you notice a top-performing employee is no longer creating the same output as before, it may be a sign of disengagement. Take the time to sit with your employee and have an open, honest discussion to ensure their disengagement isn’t stemming from personal concerns or stress.

2. Lack of Learning

If your employee slowly stops sharing articles of interest, it may indicate they are becoming disengaged and unmotivated. As a leader, you can create and share learning and growth opportunities to see if employees share your enthusiasm or learn why they may be less excited.

3. Silence

While some team members are naturally bound to be quieter than others, there is a line between quietness and silence resulting from disengagement. One way to gauge if silence is a sign of disengagement is to observe employees when the entire company or their specific team experiences a win. If a select few show no excitement or do not celebrate at all, it may indicate a more significant issue with engagement.

How To Improve Engagement As An Employee

Step Back

Take some time away from your job to thoughtfully consider what’s different or what’s missing. Start with how you feel and get to the root cause(s) of why you feel that way.

Create a Plan

What needs to change for you to start feeling better and for your engagement to improve in specific and actionable terms? The plan can’t just be about you and you alone! How does your plan help others on your team? Your manager? Productivity?


Initiate with your manager and share your plan. At an absolute minimum, your manager will be more aware of where you are and why. And you will be more aware of how much your manager cares about you and your circumstances.

How To Respond To Disengagement As A Manager

Measure Engagement

Formally, informally and relentlessly measure engagement. Find out where people are on the engagement continuum. Distribute surveys that protect anonymity and provide baseline metrics. Incorporate poll questions into your weekly one-on-ones.

At a minimum, measuring, discussing and acting on implementable suggestions will send the message that you sincerely care

Make It Personal

All of that is to say that disengagement isn’t going anywhere and will never simply fix itself. Like most relationships, it boils down to two people that care enough to have candid discussions about root causes and realistic remedies.

In order to make it personal, try the following steps:

  1. Understanding the noble purpose of the business
  2. Discovering the personal goals and aspirations of the people that work for you
  3. Connect the two

Learn How to Boost Employee Engagement With The Center for Leadership Studies

At The Center for Leadership Studies, we help leaders effectively manage their companies to improve employee engagement with our Situational Leadership® methodology. Our personalized learning solution will give practical tips for encouraging employee engagement that you can implement right away. We invite you to contact us today for more information about how we can help you boost employee engagement!