How to Recognize the Warning Signs of Employee Disengagement

There is no question that employee disengagement is a problem in today’s workplace. A recent study by Gallup found that only 32% of employees are engaged at work, while the other 68% are either not engaged or actively disengaged. Disengaged employees cost companies billions of dollars yearly in lost productivity and lower morale.

There’s no denying that employee disengagement is a problem in fully remote companies like Aemorph. It’s one of the most common complaints among remote workers. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to allow their employees to work remotely. Remote working can be a great way to promote productivity and creativity, but it can also lead to employee disengagement.

Building trust and relationships with co-workers can be challenging when employees are not physically present. It can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

In this article, we will discuss the following:

Disengaged Employees: Who Are They?

When it comes to employee engagement, there are two main camps: engaged employees and disengaged employees. Engaged employees feel invested in their work and are passionate about their company’s mission. They’re the ones that go above and beyond, always looking for ways to improve and contribute.

Disengaged employees, in contrast, are checked out. They’re going through the motions, but they’re not engaged in their work. A disengaged employee is not fully committed to their work or their employer. They may be indifferent to their job or even actively hostile towards it. Disengaged employees can harm morale and productivity in the workplace.

There are reasons why an employee may become disengaged. They may be unhappy with their current job or feel undervalued by their employer. They may be experiencing personal problems that are affecting their work. Disengaged employees may also be simply bored or uninterested in their work.

Also Read: Common Mistakes That Destroy Employee Engagement

How Important is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is critical to any organization’s success. It is the level of an employee’s commitment and involvement with their organization and its goals.

Employee engagement is crucial to productivity, retention, and overall performance. Engaged employees are more likely to be productive, motivated, and committed and stay with an organization long-term.

Organizations with high levels of employee engagement outperform their counterparts in various vital metrics, including profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, and safety.

Disengaged employees can harm your business. They may be less productive, more likely to make mistakes, and cause problems for their co-workers. That’s why we have compiled a warning list to help you recognize disengaged employees in your company/organization.

Warning Signs Your Employee is Disengaged

Employees are the backbone of your business. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to function. That’s why ensuring they’re engaged in their work is essential.

There are warning signs that your employee is disengaged. Here are a few of them:

1. High Absenteeism

One of the more obvious signs that something is wrong is when an employee starts to miss work more often. If your employee is frequently absent, coming in every day and then suddenly out sick, or taking many personal days, that’s a potential sign that they’re disengaged. Of course, there could be other reasons for absenteeism, so it’s essential to look at the whole picture.

Main causes of absenteeism:

  • Illness or injury
  • Family obligations
  • Personal issues
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Boredom
  • Stress

2. Negativity — Attitude & Domineer

Employees who are constantly negative about their work might be disengaged. This negativity can manifest itself in many ways, including complaining, being critical of others, and having a negative outlook.

Domineering behavior can also be a sign of disengagement. If your employees are always trying to control others and are unwilling to compromise, they might not be invested in their work anymore.

3. Poor Communication or Silence

If your employee starts to withdraw and no longer has internal communication with you or their colleagues, it’s a red flag. It can manifest in various ways, such as not responding to emails or texts, not participating in meetings, or being unresponsive when others try to talk to them.

Causes of poor communication:

  • Misunderstandings
  • Lack of trust
  • Poor listening skills
  • Differing communication styles
  • Emotional barriers

4. Gossip & Employee Cynicism

Gossiping is a common sign that your employees are unhappy and disengaged. It can lead to employee cynicism and a negative attitude toward company leadership. If you notice employees gathering around the water cooler or office kitchen to gossip, it’s a sign they feel disconnected from their work.

5. No Desire for Learning, Challenge or Responsibility

employee disengagement

One common disengaged employee trait is a lack of desire for learning, challenge, or responsibility. It may manifest itself in several ways, such as:

– refusing to take on new tasks or duties

– being content with the status quo and not wanting to improve

– not taking advantage of learning opportunities

– shirking responsibilities and leaving others to pick up the slack.

6. Productivity Loss

A drop in productivity is one of the most evident warning signs that an employee is disengaged. If an employee who was once a high performer suddenly starts slacking off, it’s a sign that something may be wrong. Of course, there can be other reasons for a decrease in productivity, such as personal issues or burnout, but it’s always worth investigating to see if there’s something more going on.

7. Not Seeking Advice

There can be a few reasons an employee is not seeking advice from their superiors. Maybe they feel like they already know what to do or are afraid of looking incompetent. Whatever the reason, not seeking advice can be a sign of employee disengagement.

8. Increase in Private Time

If you notice your employee is spending more time on their phone or taking more extended lunches, it could signify disengagement at work. If they’re usually social and outgoing but are now keeping to themselves, that’s another red flag. Of course, everyone needs some personal time, but if you notice a significant change in your employee’s behavior, it could be a sign of disengagement.

Also Read: The Impact Of Employee Engagement On Productivity

How to Motivate Disengaged Employees?

Many factors can contribute to employee disengagement, from a lack of clarity in roles and expectations to feeling undervalued or unsupported. Whatever the reason, it’s essential to address the issue as soon as possible. Employee disengagement can harm individual performance and overall team morale, so it’s worth taking the time to try and understand the root cause of the problem and address it.

There are vital things you can do to help motivate disengaged employees:

1. Acknowledge Their Hard Work

It’s essential to ensure that your employees feel appreciated for their hard work. A simple ‘thank you’ can make employees feel appreciated. If employees feel their hard work is going unnoticed, it’s only natural that they’ll become disengaged. Showing appreciation will help them feel valued and motivated to do their best.

2. Set Goals Together

One of the best ways to ensure employee engagement is to involve employees in setting goals. This way, they’ll clearly understand the company’s expectations of them and will be more likely to buy into the company’s vision.

3. Set Clear Expectations

Employees who are unclear about the company’s expectations are more likely to disengage. Make sure you take the time to explain your expectations clearly and allow employees to ask questions.

4. Build Trust and Establish Rapport

One important thing you can do to motivate your employees is to establish trust and rapport with them. Showing care about their well-being and interest in their success will go a long way in motivating them.

5. Communicate the Bigger Picture

It is hard to stay motivated when employees feel like they are just a cog in the machine. But they will be more engaged when they understand how their work also contributes to the company’s success. It is essential to help them see how their work fits into the bigger picture to motivate disengaged employees.

6. Provide Regular Feedback

When employee feedback is meaningful and constructive, it’s easier to motivate workers because they become more confident in certain aspects of their performance and are more committed to addressing their shortcomings. Showing them the direct impact of their skills and strengths gives them a sense of value in the workplace – the key to improved performance and engagement.


Employee disengagement can significantly negatively impact individual performance and overall team morale. If you notice any warning signs, it’s essential to take action to try and address the issue. You can do many things to help motivate disengaged employees, from showing appreciation for their hard work to set clear expectations. You can help create a more positive and productive workplace environment by engaging with your employees.

signs of disengaged employees

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is a common trait of disengaged employees? 

Ans. One common disengaged employee trait is a lack of desire for learning, challenge, or responsibility. It may manifest itself in several ways, such as:

  1. refusing to take on new tasks or duties
  2. being content with the status quo and not wanting to improve
  3. not taking advantage of learning opportunities
  4. shirking responsibilities and leaving others to pick up the slack.

Q2. What is a disengaged employee?

Ans. A disengaged employee is not fully committed to their work or their employer. They may be indifferent to their job or even actively hostile towards it. Disengaged employees can harm morale and productivity in the workplace.

Q3. What is the impact of low employee engagement?

Ans. An increase in employee disengagement in an organization will result in an increase in employee turnover.

This article is written by Kevin Dam.

Kevin Dam

Kevin is the CEO, Founder of Aemorph, a seasoned entrepreneur, and a digital marketing expert. Kevin started in digital marketing, specializing in Search Engine Optimization after leaving a career in banking and finance. He now has 12+ years helping businesses in the F&B, finance, insurance, e-commerce, medical, b2b, and SaaS industries.