An engaged employee can boost productivity, improve morale, increase ROI, and much more. But what effects does a disengaged employee have on an organization and how can we spot one before the negative effects spread throughout the company?
While an engaged employee can have several positive effects on an organization, a disengaged employee can have just as many if not more. Like a virus, the negativity that comes with being disengaged can be contagious (this works the other way around with engaged employees motivating others to do better). It takes more effort and more time to get rid of negativity than it does to motivate employees. So it is key to spot a disengaged employee during the early stages before the work is compromised and other employees, as well as the organization, gets affected.
Here are 8 things to keep an eye out for when identifying disengaged employees:
a. Low Work Quality
A disengaged employee will not focus on delivering quality work. They’ll do the bare minimum just to get by and not be fired. Bear in mind delivering low quality work can also be caused by several factors such as lack of clarity, inefficient processes, or even short timelines. Always consider low quality work as one of the contributing factors and not the only deciding factor of a disengaged employee.
b. High Absenteeism
An employee taking days off frequently is clearly a sign of disengagement. Random sick leaves with odd stories as alibis are indicators that the employee would rather not be in office or work. Even when the employee is in the office, keep an eye out for them not being able to work consistently and focusing all kinds of distractions like checking their phone, talking to others, wandering off, etc. This is a clear indicator of a disengaged employee.
C. Always late
Combine continuously being absent with tardiness and you’ve got yourself a winning disengaged employee. Not recognizing the importance of reaching work on time is reflective of disengagement. Being a few minutes late every now and then is always excusable however if an employee is always late and does not make any effort to make up for it nor do they feel like anything wrong is being done then they are disengaged. Try to factor in all possible reasons before making a decision. There could be other reasons for being late like traveling long distances, personal life issues, lack of time management skills (which will reflect in their work and other aspects of their life too), or cultural differences.
d. Constant Friction With Other Employees
A disengaged employee will not find it necessary to get along with their co-workers or working together to solve problems or issues. There is an open showcase of aggression and frustration towards others. They will reject new ideas or help/suggestions from others. The negativity can damage the work environment and morale. There is a difference between the aggression of a disengaged employee and someone with an overall bad attitude as a character trait. It is necessary to identify which of the two it is.
e. Lack of Improvement
As always, management will always step in when work quality is consistently low and discuss why it’s happening with the employee concerned in an attempt to motivate them to improve. The employee may just agree with what is being said and assure them that they will improve however if no action is taken post this discussion and no initiative is being taken to improve output/quality of work then that is a clear sign that they are disengaged. Another reason for lack of improvement could also be due to a work environment that is not conducive to growth and productivity. Make sure to always maintain a productive and positive work environment.
f. Constant Complaining
If employees are disengaged then they are not happy and if they aren’t happy then they will complain more often and openly about their issues with the employer, other colleagues, management, and the work. They’d openly profess that being in office and working is not something they like. However, it is the management’s job to find out if these complaints hold any merit and if they are valid issues or just plainly complaints of a disengaged employee.
g. Lack of Communication Between Employees and Management
Employees tend to deliver better quality work when they have a good relationship with management and maintain good two-way communication. Disengaged employees will not communicate openly with management and rely on more hearsay to get their answers. Their work will not be up to par with what is required due to a lack of clarity because they do not communicate with management to get the clarification they need. This issue can grow into something larger if not addressed. Issues with management can fester and work can be seriously affected.
h. High Attrition Rate
The most obvious indicator of disengagement is a high attrition rate. When employees are not happy they will look for something better and leave. Compare your numbers with the numbers from the last 5 years as well as with the industry standards. If there is a high number of employees quitting within a span of 6 months then it is important to find out who is leaving and why.
Organizations must always make sure to take the necessary steps to have an employee engagement strategy in place and active throughout the year. Human resources must understand that engagement is continuous and activities must be done year-round to maintain engagement instead of developing a strategy solely as a crisis management plan.