12 Warning Signs That Your Employees Are Disengaged

"Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first'� S. Sinek So what happens when staff become disengaged, disillusioned & disinterested? Find out in this week's blog post.

June 20, 2023

What is employee engagement? Is it staff satisfaction? Company culture? Perks and rewards?

These are the common ideas and concepts that spring to mind – but is there a little more to it?

We think so.

It’s about building a connection between staff and the business, so they genuinely care about its success whilst in turn fuelling performance and output, and making your customers happier too!

Everybody wins; you are happier, your employees are happier and your customers are happier too.

So how can you tell if your employees aren’t engaged? Here are 12 of the common warning signs…

1. They’re negative.

OK, this one’s pretty obvious!

If you find that your team are really negative and that they often complain then it’s pretty obvious you have an issue. Don’t ignore it.

Recruiter Pro Tip Managers sometimes prefer to stick their head in the sand and assume that moany staff members are just ‘negative people’ in general. Don’t! Dig deeper, chat with your staff and find out exactly what’s making them unhappy and negative in the first place – then attempt to solve the problem. Of course, if you think staff will be hesitant to open up, you can always set up an anonymous employee satisfaction survey to find out more – click here for details.

It’s always important to communicate with your staff. They’re on the front-line every day and thus, in the best place to spot the issues, negatives and bottlenecks to your business.

Click here for some tips on dealing with workplace negativity (but remember it could be your entire company culture and/or employee engagement strategy that needs the work).

2. They’re falling behind.

If you find yourself hearing an awful lot of ‘it’s not my fault,’ ‘it wasn’t me’ and ‘they never asked me to do that’ then you could be talking to disengaged employees.

  • They could be struggling to finish work because they have other personal issues on their mind – in which case it’s a good idea to get this out in the open so you can support them.
  • They could be struggling to finish their work because you’ve simply given them too much to do - in which case it’s good to know, so you can support them to lighten that workload and take the pressure off (you really don’t want to burn them out).
  • Or they could have completely lost motivation to do their job in the first place. Perhaps they feel undervalued or bored, overworked and stressed. Whatever the reason, you need to work with the staff member to try to motivate them and make them love your company again.

At the end of the day, whatever the issue, it’s your job to try and resolve it.

Click here to find out more about dealing with underperformers.

3. They’re unsociable.

Human beings are sociable creatures and the truth is – it’s difficult to enjoy your job if you don’t get on with others in your office.

The whole point in “employee engagement” is to build a happy, passionate and creative culture where people work together and collaborate to do amazing things for your business.

But if your team don’t get on, are completely isolated from each other and shudder at the thought of socialising with each other – all of the above will suffer.

They certainly won’t care about your business half as much (“why would I care what happens to these bunch of people I don’t know?”) and any team project will be a nightmare.

Don’t let your company's mentality become ‘every man for himself!’

Check out this Fast Company article to find out more about the importance of building relationships at work.

4. They’re constantly stressed.

Work is stressful – I know that.

But if everyone in your company is constantly stressed, something’s not right and it will not only affect your employees’ working life…

“Fifty-four per cent of the actively disengaged say that work stress caused them to behave poorly with friends or family members in the previous three months, against 17 per cent of the engaged. More alarmingly, 54 per cent of the actively disengaged say their work lives are having a negative effect on their physical health, versus 12 per cent of the engaged.” Engaging for success (A Report to Government.)

Your environment may be too intense, management could be too strict and “scary” or there could be too much work to be done – whatever the problem, it will have a negative effect on your team’s mental and physical health.

That’s obviously not a good thing for your business and will inevitably lead to low morale, increased absenteeism, high staff turnover and burn out (not to mention customer relations).

Regardless - why work in an unhappy environment, when you can work in a happy one?

5. They just don’t care

An engaged employee will work their socks off… because they genuinely care about your business.

They won’t need strict discipline and micromanagement because they’ll just want to work hard.

If everyone shoots out of the door at 5pm sharp and arrives bang on time (or late) in the morning, even though the work’s not done, I hate to say it, but they’re probably not very engaged.

Recruiter Pro Tip I am in no way suggesting that you should overwork your staff (see points 2 and 4). A good work-life balance is essential to employee happiness and wellbeing. However, when the going gets tough, your engaged employees will do what needs to be done to get through it; the disengaged ones won’t (they’ll probably just jump ship).

To find out how you can get your employees to genuinely care about your business, click here.

6. They have the “it’s not my job” mentality

In the same vein, engaged employees will be willing to go above and beyond to help. They certainly won’t refuse to do a task because it’s above or below their ‘pay grade’ – if it will help your cause.

Of course, you will need to reward all employees for stepping up. People need to know that when they do go the extra mile, you recognise and appreciate it.

Don’t take advantage of your engaged employee – they won’t stay engaged for long.

7. They don’t trust you

How do you get on with your employees? Do they open up to you? Do you think they trust you?

“Only a third of employees have confidence in or trust their senior management team” – how bad is that? Engaging for success (A Report to Government.)

If the culture of your company breeds distrust and resentment towards the senior team, then you can bet your bottom dollar that your engagement levels will be low.

Why exactly would they want to work hard for you? How can they be loyal to a company that they don’t trust? If they’re constantly in fear why would they stick around?

Of course, you also have to consider the fact that, if they’re too worried to approach you, you’ll never know what’s going on in the background… you’ll be the last to hear about any issues that arise.

Build trust with your employees and build engagement in your business.

8. They procrastinate, a lot.

Look – most people procrastinate occasionally (perhaps on a Friday afternoon after the deadlines have all been met…)

And there’s even an argument to say that more engaged staff procrastinate more… probably because they feel more comfortable doing so (and admitting to doing so).

However, if you catch your employees procrastinating an awful lot, to the detriment of their work, you have a slight problem.

  • Firstly, they’re showing disrespect for the business.
  • Secondly, it’s pretty clear they don’t care.
  • Thirdly, they obviously don’t like their job if they’re finding every excuse to get distracted.

None of those are a great sign – are they?

At this point, you may have to lay down the law a little bit. Have a chat with the team, ask for their suggestions and set targets that challenge them more so they don’t have the time to procrastinate – and so they get more of a kick out of work.

(No one enjoys mind-numbingly easy, boring tasks).

Click here for more tips on how to oust your procrastinators!

9. They don’t stick around for long

One of the clearest indicators of employee engagement is your staff turnover rate…

“Engaged employees are 87 per cent less likely to leave the organisation than the disengaged. The cost of high turnover among disengaged employees is significant; some estimates put the cost of replacing each employee at equal to annual salary.” Engaging for success (A Report to Government.)

If you find that people tend to come and go very often and you can’t seem to tie down any good, loyal staff, then you should take a good hard look at your culture and company.

Click here to check out some of the main reasons why your (best) staff might be leaving.

10. They are “sick,” a lot

There is a huge amount of evidence suggesting that engaged employees take less sick days.

“Engaged employees in the UK take an average of 2.69 sick days per year; the disengaged take 6.19.15 The CBI reports that sickness absence costs the UK economy £13.4bn a year.” Engaging for success (A Report to Government.)

You can look at this statistic in two ways…

1. Disengaged employees don’t care about your business – so they’re not going to care about taking a few sick days (or sickies) here and there.

2. Disengaged employees are more likely to be unhappy, stressed and run down – hence they are more likely to actually get ill.

So if your staff are always sick, it might be time to think about employee engagement strategies!

11. They are late, a lot

This is another fairly obvious one.

If your staff are constantly late then they’re clearly not buzzing to get to work – and they clearly don’t respect the company rules either.

Don’t ignore it; find out why and do something about it.

12. No one wants to progress

Engaged staff care about the success of a business, but they also care about their role in that success.

Perhaps not everyone aspires to be a high-flying MD, but if you honestly have no one in your team who’s looking for any progression, then you’ve got to wonder…

  1. How long they’re thinking of actually sticking around.
  2. How motivated they actually are to make your business a success.
  3. Whether they’ve given up (perhaps after years of receiving no recognition).

The truth is; every business needs two kinds of people –passionate hard workers who are happy to settle into their role and the ultra-ambitious people who are always pushing for more.

If you don’t have any of the latter in your business, you’ve got to wonder why not?

Do you have disengaged employees in your company?

What should you do about it and why should you even care?

I know, ‘employee engagement’ is somewhat of a buzzword, but as you can see from the stats we’ve shown throughout this blog, it is so important to keep a happy, healthy, loyal workforce if you want your business to thrive.

Recruiter Pro Tip Study after study has proven that engaged employees will…
  • Go above and beyond to make your business successful.
  • Be more loyal – (why would they want to leave?)
  • Come across better to customers (happy and engaged vs miserable and moody).
  • Be more creative! Give your staff the freedom (and happiness) to flourish.
If you’d like to read the full “Engaging for Success” report, click here.

Alternatively, if you’d like to receive more weekly tips on how to engage staff then click here to subscribe to this blog.

Good luck.

Coburg Banks - Multi-Sector Recruitment Agency
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