Disengagement in the workplace

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Today, where a constant fight for power and success sets a highly competitive environment for companies, many tend to forget about the foundations on which their businesses are built – their people.

Employees are an organisation’s most important asset as workforce and talent are essential to the survival and growth of any company. As the former CEO of Xerox Corporation said:

Therefore, employee engagement in the workplace is something that should not be neglected as it could negatively impact mindset, productivity and have a direct influence on a company’s performance.
So, let’s ask ourselves. What happens when these foundations become unsteady?
In short, employee disengagement could weaken the whole organisational structure and slow down journeys to success.
To avoid this, let’s go back to basics…

What is employee engagement?

It can be defined as the overall state of mind of an individual towards their work life but can also be influenced by their personal environment. This involves how happy, motivated and rewarded an employee feels and includes the environment they work in, such as mutual support, the employee’s commitment, company culture, social interactions, wider employee benefits and much more.

When talking about employee engagement, Gallup (2016) identified three types of employees:

You will need to measure your employees’ level of engagement to be able to accurately place them in the right category of the above matrix.

There are 7 main drivers that will help you measure your workplace engagement:

These drivers can differ every day for each employee whose level of engagement will ultimately vary. If an employee’s expectations are met in most or all the above drivers, there are good chances that this person would be highly engaged.

What is employee disengagement?

Needless to say, employee disengagement is the opposite of employee engagement. This means that instead of feeling a sense of belonging, an employee could feel isolated and unvalued overtime, resulting in a decrease of motivation and purpose and, if nothing prevents it, ultimately increasing the employee’s will and need to move on to greener grass.

Why do employees become disengaged?

There are a myriad of reasons why and, as previously mentioned, these will differ among employees which can make employee disengagement difficult to manage. However, there are recurrent topics that stand out from the crowd:

• Lack of clarity, purpose and opportunity
• Lack of recognition and reward
• Poor management and leadership
• Faulty communication and collaboration

What are the consequences of disengagement?

Disengagement can have a strong impact on employees and, most importantly, on organisations. Reduced motivation, isolation, low morale and lack of commitment are signs that your people might not feel at their best in their environment. Although it might be a phase, you should take it seriously and investigate as disengaged individuals tend to be less productive, less resilient, negative and probably end up leaving.

You might not be threatened by one of your employee being disengaged, but this could have a greater impact if that person is an anchor and motivator within their team. It could quickly proliferate and the disengagement of one employee could affect many others.
It would take you more time and effort to reignite engagement within a disengaged team.

How can you prevent disengagement?

First things first, the most important step is to measure the current levels of engagement within your organisation. An employee engagement survey such as Thomas Engage, which enables you to establish the levels of engagement within your organisation, would provide you with the insight you need to build an action plan towards different areas of improvement.
Regularly reviewing benefits packages and salaries is also important, ensuring they are attractive and evolving with today’s workforce expectations.

One to ones’ are also a good way to speak to your people and ask for feedback. This will give your employees the voice they need to share how they feel, what they think and what would make their experience easier and better?

Are employees leaving companies or managers?

Managers also have an important role in ensuring their team’s work environment remains positive and agreeable and that opinions, concerns and aspirations are escalated so the organisation is aware and able to take positive action.

Following Perkbox’s 2018 “Tackling the UK’s disengagement problem” study, where 2000 workers across the UK have been surveyed, 23% of employees believe their management team contributes towards a negative environment.

It is down to the company to provide employees with an attractive and engaging environment to work in, but it is also down to managers to effectively manage their team and create a trust climate with their teams, ensuring communication is good and honest.

Communication is key for any company as it is fundamental in creating relationships within the workforce, ensuring they work towards the same objectives and maintaining positivity and productivity.

How could organisations know if their employees are engaged or disengaged if they do not communicate? How could employee engagement be improved if they don’t communicate?Remember that managers can have a strong impact on employees. As mentioned before, disengagement can proliferate and having disengaged managers can have a huge influence on overall team engagement. People management skills are not something you are born with, so it is important that you train your managers to be the best they can be to ensure your people feel supported and valued as a result.


Employee engagement is not something you build overnight nor is it something that can cease from one day to another. Luckily there are many ways to measure, improve and control engagement levels in your organisation, keeping in mind that the earlier you start and bring in change, the most effective and sustainable the improvements will be.

If you would like to know more about how Thomas can help you establish the levels of engagement within your organisation, please fill in the form below.

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