5 Warning Signs to Sniff Out Low Employee Engagement

Can you spot the difference between and engaged vs. disengaged employee?

When employees are engaged with their work, they put in the extra effort and genuinely believe in the values of your organization. Disengaged workers, on the other hand, tend to dislike their jobs, don’t put in any effort beyond what’s necessary, and don’t care about the company’s vision.

Many experts believe it’s difficult to identify employees who aren’t engaged. That’s because, while some are “actively disengaged” making them fairly easy to spot, roughly half the United States workforce remains disengaged in subtle, less obvious ways.

Imagine, half of your employees may not be giving their full attention or effort to your company!

You can’t boost staff engagement if you don’t recognize a problem in the first place. That’s why you should be on the lookout for the following employee disengagement warning signs. They’ll clue you in if an employee isn’t as devoted to their role as they ideally should be. Then, in your next performance review you can discuss what you’ve observed and get to the bottom of their lack of engagement in order to strategize a solution.

1. Your Company Outreach Isn’t Jiving

Someone who performs well in their regular duties isn’t necessarily someone who is truly engaged with the organization’s values. Instead, they may simply have have their own personal work ethic.

To find out if an employee has initiative to truly support the company, look at how they behave outside of their everyday duties. For instance, you may organize a day when members of your organization can volunteer to give back to the community, or educate others about the work you do.

If an employee never participates no matter how many times these opportunities occur, they may not truly care about your vision.

2. Your Employee Has Unhealthy Distractions

Employees who frequently step out for cigarette breaks, overindulge in coffee, or choose unhealthy snacks from the break room vending machine are often trying to distract themselves from a lack of fulfillment or satisfaction in their roles.

An engaged employee will derive genuine satisfaction from their work because they find their jobs to be legitimately stimulating.

3. You Spot Low Enthusiasm for Achievements

Sure, some people are introverts. You may have engaged employees who don’t openly express much enthusiasm during a normal day. However, if your department or organization recently achieved a major success and they still seem unexcited, they may not be fully engaged with their work.


4. Why Grow When You Can Coast? 

Some people are top performers simply because they already possess the skills necessary for success in their roles. However, this doesn’t mean they’re engaged.

Experts point out that engaged employees want to grow. They’re eager to learn more about your industry, not only so they can earn a raise, but also so that they can also contribute to the overall growth of the company. They’ll attend voluntary training sessions, share relevant articles, and generally express an interest in developing their skills.

Disengaged employees coast.

5. Boring, Wasted Weekends

As a manager, you may want to cultivate personal relationships with your employees to some degree. Asking them about their weekends is one way to do so. It can also help you identify disengaged workers.

When your job doesn’t fill you with a sense of passion or excitement, you tend to carry that emotional weight with you outside of work. Ironically, engaged employees often use their weekends to pursue other interests. Disengaged employees waste every weekend on sleep, minor household chores, or sitting in front of the TV.


Strength and Opportunity Leads To Devotion

Again, if you do notice these warning signs, that doesn’t mean you can’t boost an employee’s engagement. There are many ways to do so, but focusing on their strengths is a good start. Workers want to know that their efforts are valuable to the organization. The more opportunities you give them to thrive, the more devoted they’ll be to work.

It’s also important to effectively communicate the organization’s core values. Sometimes, employees lack a sense of purpose because they feel as though the company lacks one, too. By communicating a vision, you’ll inspire them to adopt it.


About the Author

Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.