5 Symptoms of Disengaged Employees and How to Solve Them

HR Management
Josh Plotnek January 9, 2022 11 min read

Even your most passionate employees can go astray and start to display a lack of interest at work. But how exactly can you detect this? Let’s take a look at some clear symptoms of disengaged employees and the tips and tools you can use to solve them.

disengaged employee fall asleep during working hours in factory

Quick Guide

    So you thought you hired the perfect person for the job. But as time passed, that initial enthusiasm gradually diminished and their performance went with it. All you can ask yourself is: “What went wrong?” 

    Trust me, I’ve struggled to put my finger on why some of my employees may have seemed disengaged and became a shadow of their former selves.

    While it’s easy to put it down to laziness, poor attitude or burnout, there are many factors that can contribute to employee disengagement. And it’s not necessarily their fault.

    We have come up with five clear symptoms of disengaged employees and the tools you can use to get your employees back on track.

    Lack of Employee Recognition

    Studies show that employees who aren’t recognized are twice as likely to leave their jobs the following year. Also, employees who feel recognized are more than 80% more likely to be motivated, which improves performance in the long run.

    After all, employees can’t read their managers’ minds. Even the most confident workers can become disengaged at work if they aren’t getting sufficient recognition

    Many managers use the excuse that they don’t have enough time to praise their team. But that can be fixed with simple, straightforward employee recognition programs.

    How To Improve Employee Recognition

    It’s important to acknowledge strong performance, effort, hard work and legitimate achievements, and there are at least a couple of ways that this can be done.

    Use An Employee Engagement App

    Of course, employee recognition is ideally done face to face. But many managers and employees, depending on their industry and circumstances, can spend long periods of time apart. In many cases, the only way a manager can display any kind of employee recognition can be through some kind of digital solution

    An employee engagement app can help in this case. Here are some examples of how you can use this kind of software to recognize employees’ efforts:

    • Managers can send employees personal messages of praise, whether it be a simple “thank you” or notifying them that they’ll be getting some kind of reward for their achievements. 
    • Managers can share updates with the entire workforce to give employees the spotlight they deserve.
    • Managers can also use a digital solution to put employee appreciation day ideas into practice. Fun ideas to celebrate this day include team lunches, rewards and thank-you videos. The possibilities are endless.

    Peer-to-Peer Praise

    Co-workers must also be encouraged to exchange positive reinforcement and recognition for each other’s efforts. They too can use some kind of app to give praise to each other, building team morale and a positive company culture in the process. 

    But this comes from the top down. Managers need to set an example and build these positive habits first, paving the way for employees to follow.

    infographic about communication issues causing disengaged employees and preventing effective leadership

    Breakdown In Communication

    A lack of camaraderie in the workplace is one thing, but a complete breakdown in communication is an obvious indicator of disengaged employees. 

    Sure, there are great employees who happen to be introverted in nature and perform best in silence. 

    But when the whole team might be enjoying some kind of achievement and some employees aren’t showing any signs of excitement, this most likely means they’re disengaged at work.

    How To Fix Communication Issues

    Whether you work in retail, construction, security, or any other industry, managers should try taking the following steps to handle disengaged employees who they are having trouble communicating with:

    1. Have a relaxed meeting and calmly cut to the chase. Explain that you’re concerned about their lack of contact.
    2. Tell the employee you want to understand the cause of this breakdown in communication. Finding a legitimate reason for this can make it easier to find a solution that makes all parties happy.
    3. Listen attentively to the employee’s concerns and give them all the time they need to explain themselves. Repeat their answer to show them how you interpreted it. Then propose how they can overcome this breakdown in communication. asking questions helps tell the manager one of two things: either the employee has the hunger to fix the situation or they don’t care enough.
    4. Close the meeting by agreeing on how you are going to overcome this challenge. Explaining that the breakdown in communication impacts all parties (the employee, the manager and other co-workers) is a good way to initiate a commitment to action.
    5. Document the points made in the meeting and share a written summary with the employee, including the action plan and consequences of not meeting it.

    Lack Of Team Spirit

    A staggering 56% of employees spend more time with their co-workers than with their family and friends. And practically all managers will agree that the workplace shouldn’t be a social club. 

    However, a lack of healthy peer-to-peer relationships and camaraderie can be a clear sign that an employee might be disengaged at work. It’s simple – the more your employees enjoy working together, the more likely they’ll enjoy their jobs, in general.

    Disengaged employees suffer when peer-to-peer relationships get weaker, or never form to begin with. Zero connection with co-workers can lead to a decline in motivation, accountability, and worst scenario – loyalty, causing employee turnover in the process.

    Like a healthy marriage, work becomes pointless when employees no longer take care of each other.

    Learn How To Keep Your Employees Engaged, Inspired & Productive

    Reach your entire team and boost engagement, transparency, and retention in the process.

    Learn More

    Lack of Team Spirit: How to Fix This

    Not everyone gets along, but when you are managing a team, building some kind of camaraderie can make a huge difference. A peer-to-peer recognition program is a good place to start. 

    With an internal communication solution, employees can do the following things: 

    • Communicate with each other in a 1:1 or group chat.
    • Come together digitally and give each other praise.
    • Send messages to boost employee morale, exchange GIFs, videos, and images. This way, the working day stays vibrant and all team members feel a sense of togetherness and belonging.
    • Create social events, inviting employees to team gatherings, outings and company-sponsored happy hours, which can help team members get to know each other better outside of work hours. 

    When your employees see each other as a team, and not just a random group of co-workers, they are less likely to become disengaged at work.

    Punctuality & Attendance Is All Over The Place

    Managers need to watch out for when employees who are usually punctual start to go astray. And the way an employee manages their time in and out of the office can be affected by disengagement. Here are some classic examples:

    • Too many breaks: while taking breaks in the workplace is a healthy practice, abusing this privilege (committing time theft) can be a sign of being disengaged at work. Watch out for employees who are taking longer breaks than they should, as this kind of behavior can also rub off on other employees.
    • Arriving later, leaving earlier: There are days when employees need to arrive a little later or leave a little earlier than usual. But when tardiness becomes a regular occurrence, that is a red flag in any workplace. Disengaged employees may no longer care about punctuality.
    • Increases in PTO: A rise in absenteeism may also indicate that an employee wants to be elsewhere. If an employee is taking more PTO (paid time off), sick days or vacation days) than usual, there’s a chance they might be using those days to look for a new job.
    • Wasted weekends: A lack of appropriate time management can also negatively affect the employee in question. They might be so disengaged at work (and uninspired) that it bleeds into their personal life. Maybe they’re spending most of their weekends alone and in bed, instead of hanging out with friends and family or pursuing their passions.

    Also, managers need to find new ways to keep their remote workers engaged. This is because those who work remotely and spend longer periods of time unsupervised may take advantage of this.

    disengaged employees skipping work to sleep
    Photo by Shane on Unsplash

    How To Fix Punctuality & Attendance Issues

    If your employees are falling victim to any of the bad habits mentioned above, it could be worth sitting down with them and kindly asking them if everything’s OK. 

    Maybe personal problems are affecting the employee’s punctuality and attendance. 

    A conversation addressing this could bring these problems to light, helping both parties come to a healthy solution, and ultimately preventing burnout.

    Stunted Career Growth

    If your employees are no longer participating in team meetings, contributing new ideas or seem emotionally absent, there is a chance that they no longer feel a sense of purpose, stunting their career growth in the process.

    Most employees initially join a company because they agree with the company’s mission and want to contribute to it. However, where an employee fits into a company’s goals can gradually lead to disengagement.

    How To Fix Stunted Career Growth

    It is the manager’s duty to be transparent and clearly explain to disengaged employees how their role fits into the company’s vision

    Managers should be on the same page with their employees when it comes to their own goals. An employee’s efforts shouldn’t solely serve the company’s best interests, it should also serve their professional development. 

    Every employee should feel like their career has some kind of direction. Managers can use a digital solution to provide employees with a clear, written career path, showing them exactly what kind of directions their professional life can go in.

    Here are some ways managers can use digital solutions to help build employees’ professional development:

    • Employee feedback is key: Managers can provide employees surveys to fill in or suggestion boxes, so that employees can give honest feedback about their job. That way, managers can quickly identify employees who feel sufficiently challenged, those who don’t, those with some sense of direction and purpose and those who are lacking it.
    • Company core values: With a digital solution, managers can share the company’s core values and policies with the workforce, so that employees can easily access them at all times. And then, managers can publicly reward employees who are actively living up these values.

    Use The Latest Technology To Help Disengaged Employees

    Connecteam is an award-winning employee engagement app designed especially for the mobile workforce.

    More than 20,000 companies use Connecteam’s all-in-one app to prevent employees from being disengaged at work and staying productive, no matter where they are.

    With a web-based platform for you, the manager, and a mobile app for you and your employees, you can reach all team members with communication that is fun, engaging, measurable and targeted, all at once.

    You no longer need to worry about long distances or time differences getting in the way of your connection with your employees. Both you and your employees can have instant communication with each other instead of using dated methods such as e-mail, phone calls and paper-based messages.

    Connecteam helps boost employee engagement, productivity and morale while reducing employee turnover in the process.

    Here are just some of the features that will prevent your employees from being disengaged at work:

    • Employee recognition: welcome new hires, celebrate personal milestones such as anniversaries, create an employee spotlight, and employees can nominate peers for awards (employee of the month program, for example).
    • Share employee success stories: send updates on business milestones like reaching goals and KPIs. Celebrate success stories with pictures, videos, messages, and more.
    • Empower employees to speak their mind: give employees a voice with cross-department surveys, create a suggestion box to receive valuable feedback and insights, and allow employees to directly contact HR/senior management.
    • Wellness and benefits: give employees all of the essential information they need in one place, including company core values. Invite employees to company events that they can access on their mobile device.
    • Light-hearted communication: employees can engage in fun, light-hearted, non-work-related conversation. Enjoy each other’s company in the employee team chat. Send funny messages, photos, videos and GIFs to each other and allow employees to like and comment on the social feed. Even initiate light-hearted polls (for example, what is your favorite fast food?).

    In addition, Connecteam has time management, employee scheduling, and knowledge center capabilities, all the necessary tools you need to scale your business and communicate with your employees in a business language that they understand. Also, Connecteam is free to use!

    The Bottom Line On Disengaged Employees

    There’s a good chance that you can relate to at least some of the issues surrounding disengaged employees mentioned above. We know how difficult it can be to pinpoint why employees lose interest in their job

    As proven by this blog, employee retention presents many challenges.

    But it doesn’t need to stay that way. With the right methods and tools, it is possible to get employees back on your side. Turnover is avoidable and motivation, satisfaction and productivity are all attainable if you’re prepared.

    With an employee engagement app like Connecteam, you can have instant contact with your employees who were originally disengaged at work and provide small, personal touches that make a huge difference to their working day.

    The #1 Internal Communication App To Boost Employee Engagement

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