5 characteristics of disengaged employees

by | Mar 19, 2019

Do you know the signs of a disengaged employee?

The characteristics of disengaged employees are not always easy to identify and can creep up slowly and insidiously.  We look at some simple ways to boost employee engagement.

Research says that 85% of employees are now not actively engaged. This means that they are ready to jump ship when the right opportunity presents itself. This applies to all employees, but is particularly relevant to women who in a high number of incidents are forced to fit into male dominated and male coded cultures. Even though women in general prefer to pursue career opportunities internally they simply leave. But how can you tell if the individual members of your team are exhibiting the characteristics of disengaged employees? If the numbers are so high then how come no one is noticing let alone doing anything about it.

disengaged employees

5 characteristics of disengaged employees

#1 Lack of Enthusiasm

This is a dead give away and almost too obvious to mention. But I needs to be said. If members of your team seem demotivated, disinterested or lack enthusiasm then it could be that they have become disengaged rather than having an off day. Everyone has days where they struggle, but if this is persistent over a period of time and doesn't seem related to any situational stress, then this is a warning signal. It is at least time to ask them if they are OK and to check-in on what's going on for them.

#2 Complaints not ideas

When team members stop making suggestions and creativity and innovation are down, this is already an indication that something is not right. If brain storming sessions become whinge fests and your team are getting upset about even minor things, these are strong characteristics of disengaged employees

#3 Lack of curiosity

A willingness to learn is a key element of a dynamic team. When teams are engaged they ask questions, they are open to exploring and testing new ideas and concepts. They will try new things and are comfortable taking risks and being vulnerable. When they sit there with their hands in their pockets, accepting what is going on around them, then something is amiss.

#4 Blaming others

Making excuses and blaming others or the system is one of the main characteristics of disengaged employees. When teams are unwilling to take ownership of challenges and the possibility of failure, they are almost certainly not fully in the zone. A blame culture is counter productive and requires immediate attention.

#5 Passive aggression

If your team are doing just enough to avoid negative comments, this means they probably make their deadlines and objectives, but only just. Maybe they are late for meetings, distracted on their phones and don’t participate in discussions. They may not volunteer information unless pushed and avoid meaningful interaction. They may try to make themselves invisible within a larger group. They passive aggressively ignore instructions rather kicking off a discussion to give a reason.

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Simple ways to boost employee engagement

The characteristics of disengaged employees are not always easy to identify and can creep up without their leaders noticing. It's only when they hand in their notice that the reality sinks in. Some basic steps can help create an environment where all employees feel valued.

Show appreciation

Remember to acknowledge success and even effort. Sometimes even the basic courtesies go a long way. I was at an event recently where an anonymous contributor wanted her manager to say “good morning.”  Neglecting small things can turn them into big problems.

Show empathy

Getting to know what is going on in the lives of the individual members of your team is critical.  Showing empathy and understanding will help them feel less isolated and increase engagement. Talk to them and create a dialogue. It's up to leaders to show their vulnerability too. Employees are not going to share their concerns or challenges to a closed wall of indifference

Open communication

Communicating openly, trusting your team with important information regarding your organisation’s objectives and challenges gives them a sense of belonging. Trusting your team to produce results rather than micro-managing them via a controlling presence culture is important to team effectiveness.

Psychological safety

Creating a team culture where employees feel psychologically secure where everyone is able to voice their opinions without fear of reprisal or judgement is critical to employee engagement and team success.

Here is a list of other 20 non-inclusive behaviours that could be contributing.

Many organisations don't realise they have a problem until they start to lose key employees and their employee turnover spikes, or absenteeism increases. If any business has high levels of churn in a specific demographic then they really need to take immediate and decisive action. Or just look around their office.

3Plus can help you make the changes you want and strengthen your employee engagement and talent pipeline

3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Leadership and Competence Building or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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