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Disengaged Employees: Signs of Disengagement & How to Re-engage - HRDQ

Disengaged Employees: Signs of Disengagement & How to Re-engage

Disengaged employees are often representative of a problem in the workplace. It’s important to be aware of the signs of disengagement so you can identify disengaged employees and work to re-engage them. When all employees are engaged, you can create a more productive workplace and better company culture.


click hereHRDQ offers a library of online assessments that can help you gauge an employee’s attitude and outlook. Discover what your team thinks with the HRDQ Online Assessment Center.


What is a Disengaged Employee?

There are two types of disengaged employees—not engaged and actively disengaged. Actively disengaged employees are pretty easy to spot, as they likely spend much of their time on their phones, don’t show up to work, and generally have a bad attitude. However, employees who are not engaged can be a little more difficult to spot because they blend in with the team and silently get by.

Signs of Disengagement

Here are some of the most common signs of employee disengagement:

Work Performance

An actively disengaged employee’s work performance is likely poor or sub-par at best. But an employee that is not engaged may be consistently producing decent work. The problem may be that they don’t feel like they’re being challenged enough. There’s a difference between delivering good work versus great work—and it begins with having the drive to go above and beyond and not being bored with the task at hand.

Your employees should constantly be looking for ways to improve themselves and general company procedures. If you can’t remember a time when one of your employees made an effort to make a change, a suggestion, or shared something they learned, it could be a sign of disengagement.


Frequent “Breaks”

Is your employee spending more time not working than actually doing their job? Are they constantly getting up for coffee, lunch, bathroom breaks, and walks? This is another obvious indication of disengagement.


If your team accomplishes a great achievement, they should be excited about it. Look around the room, and you can likely distinguish those who are proud of the work they produced versus those who seem indifferent. This is another way to pick out those employees who are simply not engaged.

Lack of Communication

Another way to spot disengagement is to consider what kind of relationship the employee in question has with their supervisor or manager. Does the employee seem comfortable talking to their superior? Do they reach out to their superior on their own accord, and how often? Those who are not engaged or actively disengaged may not feel compelled enough by their work to bother reaching out to their superiors or talk through problems.


A final sign of disengagement is complaints. However, as mentioned previously, those who are disengaged are not bringing these complaints directly to their superiors. Keep your ear to the ground, and you’ll likely get a better clue of what both actively disengaged and not engaged employees are disgruntled about.

How to Engage Employees

Now that you know some of the most common signs of employee disengagement, how can you help you re-engage your employees? Here are some effective ways to engage employees in your organization:

Consider a Workshop

The Employee Engagement assessment and workshop from HRDQ can help to produce more satisfied employees. This training course introduces leaders and managers to the tools and techniques for ensuring employees feel valued and supported in their day-to-day responsibilities. The program is organized into four distinct categories or strategies for employee engagement with self-assessments, interactive activities, and practical knowledge for becoming an effective and influential leader.


click hereLearn more with the Employee Engagement Customizable Course!


Look to Leadership

Next, those in leadership positions need to take action. One of the first things they should improve upon is fostering an environment that encourages open communication. Employees who feel that they can openly and honestly talk to their superiors are more likely to bring up the issues they’re facing within the company.


click hereHRDQ offers a full range of communication skills training materials and activities to help your leaders and entire team improve communication.


Emphasize Purpose

Those in leadership positions need to emphasize company purpose and values in a way that applies to the employee’s role. Your team probably has a written set of these values, but they mean nothing if they are never put into action. Purpose gives people the drive to complete tasks and love what they do—without it, jobs can feel meaningless, which can lead to resentment.

Reassess Employee Roles

All too often, an employee is put in a role that does not utilize their strengths and weaknesses. This may even be why their work quality is poor or consistently “good.” After open communication is better established, you can see more clearly what a certain employee excels at and what they need assistance on. A few tweaks and changes to their current position and a little bit of training may be all it takes to turn someone who is disengaged into a star employee.

Get Started with HRDQ Today

Disengaged employees indicate that changes need to be made in your organization. Knowing the signs of disengagement and how to re-engage employees is imperative. If you need assistance, HRDQ is here to help:

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.