Grace Smith
January 3, 2024

67% of employees feel disengaged at work. They are indifferent to the success of their company and do the bare minimum required of them. The problem with ‘bare minimum’ is that it never helps an organization get forward in the game. Employee disengagement is becoming a serious problem in the digital era, and companies are also noticing the same. Disengagement spreads like a pandemic in an organization, affecting team after team. So, how can you prevent this from happening in your company? By looking for warning signs.

10 Warning Signs Your Employees Show When They Are Disengaged

Some signs may be overt, while some may be subtle. But there are always warning signs that your employees give out when they are disengaged. The trick lies in knowing where to look for them. Here are 10 of the most common warning signs your employees show when they are disengaged:

1. Silence

The biggest telltale sign of a disengaged employee is that they suddenly go silent. Employees who do not feel engaged and satisfied with the organization do not bother to voice their opinions in a meeting. They passively accept the new tasks or changes in activities made by the team. It might be because, in the past, when the employee made a suggestion or voiced their opinion on something, the manager did not listen to the same. This might have made an impression that the voice of the employee does not matter to the organization. Events such as these, when they happen over a period of time, lead to the complete disengagement of employees in the workplace.

Encouraging open communication and actively seeking employee input in meetings can make them feel heard and valued.

2. No collaboration with team members

Most employees are comfortable with their team and engage with the team members often. But if you notice an employee suddenly withdrawing from their team and stops making collaborations, it could be a sign of disengagement. If employees are found to spend more time by themselves rather than socialize or collaborate with their team, it is a bad sign. Although such an issue could take root for many reasons (issues with team members, for example), it is the responsibility of the manager to look into the issue and make sure it is resolved. No matter what the reason, lack of participation is a sign of disengagement. 

Facilitate team-building activities and address any interpersonal issues to foster better teamwork and engagement.

3. Too many breaks in between work

If you are an employee who loves what they do and also finds the work environment to be productive, there is no way you take unnecessary breaks from your work. If an employee does so, it might be because they find it difficult to focus on work for longer periods of time. It can be an effective sign of employee disengagement as well. It does not mean that employees should never take a break from their work, In fact, it is actually beneficial if they do take breaks between long stretches of work. But the issue occurs when the breaks are too frequent and too long. 

Create a more engaging and stimulating work environment, and offer support to help employees focus and manage their time effectively. Check in on them regularly with pulse and engagement surveys, and use the feedback received to guide your engagement efforts.

4. Drop in productivity

Should have put this at the top of the list because a drop in productivity is the biggest red flag an employee can show when it comes to employee disengagement. A star performer suddenly being unable to meet the daily targets and producing sub-par results could be because they do not find their work engaging anymore. A disengaged employee will not care about the amount or quality of work they submit anymore. Although there can be many reasons for the productivity level of an employee to suddenly drop, chances are that they are just disengaged. 

Use the same tactic as before. Regularly check in with employees to understand their challenges and motivations, and offer support or training where needed.

5. Overindulgence in unhealthy activities

When you see employees withdrawing from teamwork and overindulging themselves in unhealthy activities like too many snack breaks or cigarette breaks, it might be because their engagement levels have dropped. Employees who spend a huge amount of time browsing the internet also lack the drive to do their everyday work efficiently. If you are someone who does not find the work you do interesting anymore, you grab on any reason to get away from your work desk.

Managers must take note of such activities because they affect not only the productivity of the employee but also the efficiency of the team as a whole. In addition to that, asking them question about their engagement levels during one-on-ones or through employee surveys can help them get to the bottom of what's bothering them.

6. Increased absenteeism

Yet another most obvious sign of employee disengagement is increased absenteeism. Employees who love their work never skip a work day (unless it's a health issue or any other emergency, of course). So when you see a sudden drop in the attendance of your employees, it is judicious to look into the issue. Maybe it's more serious than you think.

Getting on one-on-one meetings with your employees and trying to figure out the root cause of increased absenteeism can be an effective way to get rid of the disengagement. 

7. Takes up a negative attitude

When employees feel that they are not seen or heard in the organization and that their work is not valued, they often take up a negative attitude. It can be manifested in the form of disregarding the office routine, coming to the office late, or being unreceptive to organizational suggestions. This development of a negative attitude can heavily hamper the serenity of the work environment. If you feel your employees have taken up a negative attitude of late, it might be because of employee disengagement as well. 

Promote a healthy work-life balance and provide resources for stress management and wellness. You could also consider hiring or partnering with mental health and wellness consultants for managing employee stress. Additionally including a game room and additional lounge rooms can help relieve stress and bring a sense of relaxation.

8. Aptitude for learning has vanished

When employees are disengaged from work, they no longer show an aptitude for learning. They stop asking questions during meetings and do not look forward to the next step in their career in the company. The aptitude and penchant for learning come from a place of engagement and satisfaction. When there is no more satisfaction left for the employee in the organization, employees do not feel the need to learn and upskill themselves. 

Offering opportunities for professional development and making earning resources easily accessible can reignite their passion for growth.

9. Always the naysayer

Engaged employees are receptive to suggestions from the team members and managers. They do not outright reject any comments made by the team or consider themselves above criticism. However, this is not the case with a disengaged employee. If employees are disengaged, they will be the first ones to say no to a new suggestion made by the company. This has a high chance of influencing the rest of the team as well. 

Encourage a culture of open-mindedness and constructive feedback, and involve employees in decision-making to increase buy-in.

10. Never takes the initiative anymore

There are tons of occasions where employees can showcase their skills. Taking the initiative for events and meetings can be an excellent way to do so. However, employees who no longer resonate with their organization do not bother to take the initiative anymore. It is a dire warning sign of employee disengagement as well. 

Recognize and reward initiative, and provide opportunities for employees to lead projects or contribute in meaningful ways.

Best Practices to Reduce Employee Disengagement

Now that you know what signs to look for to identify employee disengagement in your organization let us look at some of the possible solutions to mitigate the same:

1. If the employee does a good job, make sure to recognize it

Employee reward and recognition are excellent ways to bring back engagement in your team. One of the common reasons for employee disengagement is the feeling that the work of employees is not seen or recognized by the organization. Imagine taking the extra effort to make the presentation efficient, yet nobody even notices it. Identify employees who continually meet the desired targets, have the right workplace etiquette, or the ones with low absenteeism. Rewarding them with an award or even monetary compensation increases employee morale along with engagement. 

2. Conduct employee feedback surveys routinely

Employee engagement surveys can be a lifesaver here.

Tools like ThriveSparrow help managers create customized surveys quickly, which allows them to collect real-time feedback from employees. It allows managers to identify any potential cause of employee disengagement and root it out in the very beginning.

ThriveSparrow is an employee success platform that helps you check in on your employees frequently with engagement, eNPS, and pulse surveys.

A screenshot of ThriveSparrow's question banks

With ThriveSparrow's research-backed question banks, you can create employee surveys in minutes. The benefit?

  • You spend less time creating surveys where efforts could go into interpretation and analysis of the survey results.
  • Get insights on employee perceptions.
  • View department-wise engagement levels with insights from Heatmaps.

Moreover, the platform's Kudos module integration with Slack allows for prompt collaboration and meaningful peer-to-peer recognition. Employees can then accumulate the appreciation points they receive to redeem rewards. This helps boost employee morale and engagement.

A screenshot of ThriveSparrow's Kudos Module

Try ThriveSparrow for free today, collect feedback, close the loop, and keep a check on your employees' engagement levels from dropping.

3. Build a people-first culture

Culture can make or break your organization. If you build a culture that centers around its people and integrates employee well-being along with achieving organizational goals, you will never have to worry about employee disengagement. An employee-first culture helps companies focus on employee needs first, reducing the chances of employee dissatisfaction. The positive work environment that arises from this culture makes sure that employees remain engaged all the time. 

4. Look for employee strengths and build on them

Other than trying to find out faults in employees and trying to correct them, spend more time analyzing their strengths. Look for the areas where your employees excel and let them know of the same. Give them suggestions on maximizing their strengths and building on them. It helps enhance employee confidence and remove any seed of disengagement from their mind. 

Act Before It’s Too Late

If you keep ignoring the warning signs your employees flash when it comes to disengagement, it will sooner or later lead to employee attrition. We live in a time where employee turnover rates are at an all-time high. Rather than focusing your energy on replacing employees, look for ways to make them stay. Spot the warning signs immediately and take corrective actions to dissolve any element of employee disengagement from your organization.