How Organizations Can Prevent Employee Disengagement


Tim and Jim both have the same job but in different companies. They make the same salary and have the same commute. However, while Tim looks forward to going to work every day, Jim dreads it.

Tim tells everyone how awesome his workplace is and how much he loves his job. Jim doesn’t complain much, but he shows up late, hides from his boss, and could care less about the quality of his work. If Jim’s manager doesn’t recognize this, his company could be in serious trouble.

Disengagement is a serious problem

Research shows that American businesses lose as much as $550 billion each year because of disengaged employees. How? Disengaged employees leave, or they aren’t as productive. And these affect everyone’s experience at work.

The 3 A’s of disengagement

Employee disengagement isn’t always obvious. It creeps up slowly. So, how can you tell if you’re about to have a problem? Look at the three As: absenteeism, avoidance and attitude.

Absenteeism. Do you notice see a lot of empty chairs on Mondays and Fridays? Your problem might just be more than employees who are sick or pretending to be sick.

Avoidance. Do your employees avoid you? Are you getting the silent treatment? Your employees could be feeling frustrated, or they may have other issues at work, and avoidance is their coping strategy.

Attitude. An attitude problem is a sign that your people are becoming disengaged. We’re not talking about a person or two. This means having open hostility in the workplace, that is, people not doing their jobs or caring when something good happens at work. If you’re seeing these things, it’s time to take a deeper look.

What are you doing wrong?

Disengagement doesn’t happen at random. There is a pretty predictable set of variables that can cause a company’s employees to check out. Luckily for you, those are mostly things you can control.

When you enforce unnecessary rules, for example, or make work boring, employees tend to check out mentally. If you have a culture of fear, ignore human resource problems or overwork your people, they’re not going to stick around.

Another issue can be job insecurity. When people fear for their jobs, they tend to pull back and even start looking for other work.

So, what can you do?

Here are some things you can do to prevent disengagement from affecting your company.

It starts with hiring. You’ve got to have a clear idea of your company culture, and then hire people who fit it. This includes hiring managers who have the experience and maturity to know when to stand up for employees and know when to gently push them. A good manager can inspire his or her employees to work hard.

Another cultural element is that of trust. Your employees need to be able to trust you. Trust that you have their best interests at heart, trust that you’re telling them the truth, and trust that you’ll listen (and respond) to their concerns.

Having a culture of recognition helps a lot in reducing the incidence of disengagement. You’ve got to praise your employees for a job well done. Reward goal achievements, have team happy hours, and more. When your employees feel valued, they feel satisfied and motivated to work harder.

Tackling employee disengagement

Disengagement doesn’t look the same everywhere in your company. Your managers are going to be your best line of defense. They need to find out what is going on in their group, develop ways to keep their team engaged, and stay on top of the issue constantly. What works in one area of your company won’t work in another. The best people to decide what works are the front line managers.

Overall, it’s important to pay attention to the early warning signs of disengagement. Setting up ways to keep people engaged will benefit everyone in the company.

Look for signs of the three As: absenteeism, avoidance and attitude. Take a hard look at yourself and your leadership team; uncover and eliminate anything that may be contributing to the problem. Evaluate any other company processes or systems that may add to employee disengagement and adjust them accordingly.

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