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10 warning signs an employee is disengaged


Anyone involved in HR or runs their own business has, at some time, encountered a disgruntled employee. But what are the signs that they are not engaging? And how do you nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem and affects the company’s productivity?

Here are some of the danger signs to look out for.

  1. The employee is burned out Burnout can be caused by a variety of reasons, but one of the most common reasons is an excessive workload. It is not possible for any employee to sustain a heavy workload indefinitely. Are there employees on your team who frequently work long hours and seem to be busy all the time and often appear tired? If so, they are at  high risk of becoming disengaged.
  1. Stops participating in meetings When employees who were active contributors before become silent, it is important for HR managers to take note. This is especially the case if it’s part of a trend you’ve noticed elsewhere.
  1. Arrives late and leaves early This is one of the biggest indicators of employee disengagement. Ordinarily, HR shouldn’t rigidly police an employee’s start and finishing times unless it is a part of the company’s culture, or the employee has a long-term history of shortening their hours.
  1. Frequently distracted Frequent breaks that disrupt work are another danger sign. If you find the employee frequently on their phone or absent from their desk for long periods or even if you notice them idling away elsewhere, this could mean they are feeling disengaged from work.
  1. Failure to meet deadlines A constant inability to meet deadlines indicates that an employee is either unable to cope with the workload, is distracted or has issues with time management.
  1. Resistant to change In an organisation, the bigger it gets, the more there is a need for employees to adapt and grow as well. However, disengaged employees will not be motivated to learn new skills. When new initiatives are rolled out, disengaged employees will either fail to adopt them, complain or even flatly refuse to adopt them.
  1. Rude and abrupt to colleagues When someone is stressed, it is normal for them to be grumpy or curt. However, persistent rudeness or abruptness to polite overtures or requests from colleagues or managers suggests a more significant problem. Constant rudeness is a sign of discontentment.
  1. Avoids colleagues Some employees are naturally quiet and reserved and that’s OK. However, when a typically cheerful and amiable employee stops socialising, there’s something amiss.
  1. Does the bare minimum When an employee who used to be an exemplary performer begins to do the bare minimum, HR managers should take notice. If the employee is scaling back their efforts at work, then it may be a sign they feel under appreciated.
  1. Spends a lot of time doing other stuff at work Occasionally, employees don’t need to be away from their desks to demonstrate they are not working. Idling away on social media, indulging in online shopping or other non-work-related activities can be a sign of dissatisfaction.

Upon realising that an employee is disengaged, it is important to sit down and have a chat with them. This can help you find out why they are struggling, or what is affecting them and preventing them from engaging fully.

Approach this conversation from a non-judgmental viewpoint – because it’s essential to understand why an employee is feeling dissatisfied and how it is impacting their work, or in some cases, their entire team’s work.

Communication is key. In some cases, it is also worth looking inward to see if there’s some way you could have failed your employee. It’s only when you get to the root of the overall problem that employee disengagement can be overcome.

This article was first published in the HR Gazette


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