Responding to Disengaged Employees

Disengaged employees are low-energy employee who do not show passion or interest in their work. Typically, they will find it harder to be motivated in the workplace and produce high quality work. Their lack of enthusiasm risks damaging the company culture and the motivation of those around them. It is important to distinguish between disengaged employees and poor employees all together, as they are not the same. Disengaged employees are those who were previously high performing but have slowly lost interest in their work lives.


Today, disengaged employees pose a major threat to businesses. With some considering it to be the most prevalent challenge that businesses face today. According to Gallup’s 2019 State of Global Workplace report, only 14% of working Australians feel engaged with their work. Additionally, 71% feel disengaged while 15% are actively disengaged.


While we can’t tackle the problem nationally, we can as independent businesses, put ourselves above the rest. In this article we are going to first talk through how to spot disengaged employees. Once we know the scale of the problem we’re dealing with, we’ll discuss how to reengage these employees.

Disengaged Employees


How to tell if your employees are disengaged

Poor performance: Poor performance is probably the first thing that will draw your attention to the problem. Though, it might not be the first symptom of disengagement. If you notice that a previously top-performing employee is producing lacklustre work, it might be a sign they’re tuning out. Just make sure you look out for other signs before jumping to conclusions.


Poor communication: Notice an employee tuning out during meetings? Have the meetings been extra dull lately, or is something else at work? Lack of communication is another integral early sign to watch for. Look out if it seems that an employee isn’t motivated to discuss new projects or speak up. These could be signs that their mind is elsewhere.


Survey: If you’re getting tired of guessing, turn to the facts. It’s unlikely that an employee will own up to low engagement when their manager asks on their own. Luckily, a CiVS employee survey ensures all employees complete anonymity, encouraging them to speak up. This allows employers to obtain objective analytical data on the status of their employees and business. A CiVS employee survey can be used to return statistics on the engagement rate of a business. For more information take a look here at how our surveys can be used. Alternatively, give us a call at (08) 6314 0580 or email


Absenteeism: Feel like someone’s been taking a few too many sick days recently? It could be more than a returning flu. Consistent absenteeism, which includes showing up late for work, could be a sign of disengagement.


Feel like you’ve been noticing this behaviour around the office lately? A few employees pop to mind? It’s one thing to identify it, another thing to solve it. Take a look below for our solutions.

Disengaged Employees


Set goals together

An employee might disengage with their work, not because they’re unmotivated, but because they feel lost. If there isn’t a clear path to progress, or a deadline, employees may feel they can float about. Sit down with them and introduce clear goals in their work life. Provide them with actionable items and a strict timeline to work with.

Sitting down and establishing these goals together will make employees feel more invested in the outcome. Setting goals together can help draw in their attention and help them understand the importance of their work. If you’re looking to reengage employees, this offers a more hands-on solution than just assigning them new tasks.

Disengaged Employees


Create a culture of opportunity

In order for employees to feel invested in your company, they have to believe they have a future there. It’s important that employees feel there is a path of progression that they can follow. Understandably, it’s easy to throw in the towel early if you feel there is nothing waiting for you at the end of the finish line.  If you’re looking for tips on how to achieve this, take a look at our previous post on employee retention. To start off, job shadowing or training programs offer a strong start.


Flexible working hours

Here’s something we love at CiVS — flexible hours. The classic 9-5 rigidity can wear a person down. Meanwhile, the freedom to choose when and where you work can spring new life into any job. If the nature of your business allows it, give employees the opportunity to customise their working hours. This will help give your company a competitive edge when it comes to retention while boosting employee satisfaction and motivation.


Talk it out

Sometimes it’s best to cut to the chase. Stop beating around the bush and confront the problem of disengagement head on. If you’ve noticed an employee lacking motivation or interest, talk to them about it. For a majority of the time, disengagement will come with a reasonable explanation. Their workload could be too high or too low, or maybe there is something wrong with the work itself. Sit down and have a chat with them, taking an empathetic approach. If you’re employee feels comfortable, they may feel they can be honest about the root of the problem. This will lead to a better, more direct, solution which can end disengagement quickly.


Provide them with work they value

Ever get stuck with grunt work? Everyone has to do a bit every now and again but if it’s all you’re getting — it’s exhausting. Provide employees with work that’s meaningful to them. Pick out something that perfectly matches their skill set or fits in with their hobbies and values. Make sure that an employees workload isn’t deviating too much from the role they signed up for. If you find that their naturally talented in another area, you may feel the need to assign them work from there. This can be rewarding in its own right, but can also push employees to do work they’re uninterested in.


Provide feedback and recognition

The importance of recognition in the workplace is widely established. So, it’s not surprising that it would be an early defence against disengagement as well. Providing feedback will help employees feel seen in their workspace. It will grant them a sense of responsibility and help them understand that they are part of something larger. It also helps them build and improve on their existing skills, introducing a culture of growth into the workplace.


Revaluate the workload

Sometimes an employee tunes out at work because they have so much to do they get overwhelmed. Sometimes they tune out of work because they have very little on their plate, they know they can get away with it. If an employee doesn’t have enough tasks to keep them busy throughout the day, they’ll start focusing on other things. This in turn can cause them to lose focus on the very little work that they do have. It’s important to find a balance with employees that helps them stay busy — but not too busy. Turn to employees with similar workloads and evaluate how they’re doing. Or take a closer look at the work itself and think how long it would take you to do it.


Treat it like burnout

Burnout is one of the most common reasons for disengagement. Vice versa, disengagement is one of the most common signs of burnout. If your employees are feeling burnout there’s a range of steps you can take to remedy it. In a previous CiVS insight we talked about the issue in depth. Covering some tips we’ve discussed here such as flexible working hours, as well as some new topics such as physical exercise.


Feeling lost?

Every employee is different, and every company is different too. With a CiVS employee survey we can uncover new insights about your company to boost satisfaction, productivity, and motivation. Our surveys can help unveil where disengagement may be gathering, and what the best remedies are for your workforce. Enquire today at (08) 6314 0580 or