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7 Warning Signs of Employee Disengagement

How can you tell if employees aren't satisfied at work? Disengaged employees don't usually show up to work in an "I hate my company" t-shirt. They certainly won't walk up and tell you, "Boss, I only show up to get a paycheck." In most cases, poor performance is the main indication that engagement around the office is slipping. If you don't notice employee disengagement until performance falls, your company has already lost money.

Here are some indicators of disengaged employees. Paying attention to these warning signs can help you catch and address employee disengagement early.


1) Time-Oriented vs. Task-Oriented

Time-oriented employees tend to work just to "put their time in." They complete their work to pass the time. Watch your employees. How do they spend their time? Do they work exactly from 9:14 to 4:46 and round to the full eight hours? Are they out the door the moment the clock hits 5:00, no matter what?

Task-oriented employees come to the office to get work done. They work until they reach a good stopping point, some days leaving a bit early, some days a bit late. They aren't watching the clock, so much as they are simply trying to get through the task at hand. They are in the office to do their job, and they let their workload decide their schedule.


2) No Desire for Improvement

Engaged employees want to improve in their position and move up in their company. It's important to note that "improvement" is the key word here. Not everyone wants to become the CEO, but they should want to get better on some level. Employees who don't progress usually either don't know how to or don't care to. The first reason is indicative of a larger problem, but definitely worth addressing. The second is a clear sign of disengagement.


3) Stagnant Work Output

Consistency is key when it comes to work. Companies want to know what to expect from their employees. They should be able to expect consistent, high-quality work. There is a fine line between consistent work and stagnant work. Challenge drives motivation. Unchallenged employees can still complete tasks, but they lose the drive to go above and beyond. Without motivation, commitment declines. This leads to a lazier work ethic and a slip in quality. If employers push for the same (instead of better) results and quality, disengagement will follow. Make sure that you give your employees varied work and provide new challenges.


4) Browsing the Internet

Its okay for employees to take small breaks. In fact, it's good for them to do so. There's a difference between taking a minute to reply to a comment on a Facebook post and blatantly surfing the web at work. At this point, the employee is wasting time. If you notice that employees frequently check their phones or that non-work sites are always up on their desktop, they're not very engaged at work.


5) Managers Don't Recognize Employees

Managers can become disengaged as easily as other employees. One of the best ways to check is to see if they give recognition to the people they manage. Do they let employees know when they do a good job? Do they thank their employees? Are they nice to their coworkers? If you answered no, you may have disengaged managers. When managers become disengaged, other employees follow suit.


6) No Friends at Work

People don't have to be best friends with the whole office to be engaged at work. They should have people they enjoy spending time with. Chatting, sharing meals, and out-of-office excursions help encourage a close-knit office. These activities humanize coworkers and help with the daily stress of office life. If employees withdraw from coworkers, they are more likely to be disengaged at work.


7) No Praise for the Company

"Sam, what’s your favorite part about working here?" "Going home." Ouch. Yeah, that person is disengaged. It's hard to motivate yourself in an organization you dislike. Hostility for the company is a major sign of active disengagement. Listen to your employees. Do they complain? Do they have good things to say? Ask them what they like about the company and listen to their response. Disengaged employees will struggle for an answer.


Employee disengagement is a serious and widespread issue that companies should take seriously. Not only does it hurt the company, but it can have negative effects on the employees themselves. Check out this white paper to learn more about engagement and how to foster it in your company.

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