Are Your Team Disengaged?

7 October 2013 / by Ashley Freeman

“Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit”- George Carlin


Like any epidemic, employee disengagement starts small. If left untreated, it can quietly get worse. Before you know it’s there, it’s too late. The damage is done.

Like a disease, disengagement can be contagious, spreading negativity through your office to the great detriment of profitability and customer satisfaction.

When an employee disengages from the company mission, they can become a waste of resources, giving just enough effort to retain their job. Their dissent can also have dramatic and disruptive effects on the morale of the rest of the team.


The Symptoms


If you can learn to read the signs, you can use effective management techniques to bring a disengaged employee back from the brink and re-inspire positivity and motivation.

Broad signs include arriving late, absenteeism, deliberately elusive behavior, unjustified animosity towards management, declining appearance and isolation.

It’s commonly agreed that there are three main stages to disengagement. The initial symptoms of the first stage of disengagement tend to show up in performance monitoring. Any signs of negative changes or of performance falling away can be early indicators of engagement issues. Only the most diligent leaders will be able to catch disengagement in these early stages by taking a keen interest in performance and staff morale.

Disengagement in its more advanced stages will manifest itself in changes in the behavior of the employee. Any meaningful changes in demeanor or behaviour, such as withdrawal, agitation or discontent should throw up a red flag. This is the beginning of the end. Only intensive treatment, a documented commitment of what leader and employee need to do, can win them back now.

By stage three, the employee may have entirely given up, only biding their time until something else comes along. Not only are they not committed to the company mission, they could be displaying vindictive behaviour, reacting to perceived injustices and causing disruption.

Even if you have team members that are showing signs of being in this third ‘disengaged’ phase, there is still hope.


What Can You Do?


So what treatment do we prescribe? Well, your first step needs to be to work out why this particular team member is disengaged. Look at other members of your team, is this team member an anomaly, or the rule? Over what time period did they become disengaged? Could you, as a manager, have done anything to prevent it?

Once you’ve built a full picture of what’s been going on, and taken full responsibility for elements that you may have been responsible for. You then need to figure out how to turn it around. This is where you need to go right back to the ‘basics’ of involvement. Listen to your team. Focus on their own aims and objectives. Give them ownership of projects and communicate in a way that speaks best to their learning style. By focusing on these basic foundations you are likely to see an immediate improvement. Hopefully, if they form the basis for a longer programme of increased attention and involvement, you should see consistent improvement over a period of months.


Prevention, Not Cure


As with most things, prevention is always better than a cure. If you can spot disengagement in it’s earliest forms, or even better, pre-empt disengagement and prevent it altogether, you will save yourself a lot of stress and resources further down the line. This comes down to simple managerial awareness and a fundamental understanding of the basic foundations of involvement.


Do you suffer with widespread disengagement within your organization? Do you worry that it’s spreading? Why not give us a call? Let us tell you how we can help.