Five Elements to Consider When an Engaged Employee Disengages

As this seems to be a rather common issue and affects about 90% of the workforce, here are five ideas to employ whenever an employee starts disengaging.

  1. Reconnect and Truly Listen

The first part of solving any problem is addressing it through an honest and respectful conversation. An enlightened company knows that they have human beings on staff and that they have problems that require human solutions.  They also know that their people are their most valuable asset so keeping them happy and engaged is a win/win for everyone. So, schedule a one-on-one discussion with your disengaged employee, and ask them what is happening. Is there a workplace stressor that you can address together? How can you help them solve the issue they seem to be experiencing? What do they need to do in order to reignite their inspiration and passion for the job? Ask these questions and then listen very carefully to the answers. Then you will be able to begin to formulate an ongoing plan so that employees will be less likely to disconnect again in the future.

Manage Your Team Differently

One common reason for employee disengagement is that an individual’s needs are not being met through their current team or leadership structure. So after the aforementioned honest conversation, figure out what you can do differently as a manager to assist your team members in succeeding and fulfilling their potential, as again this benefits everyone. Perhaps you need to leave your door open for questions, or you need to reduce your micromanaging tendencies. Whatever adjustment you need to make, start doing it!  Don’t skip this step as research indicates that employees spend up to 15 hours a week (a full 22 working days a year!) griping about their manager. So there is always something you can do to improve and if you do, your team will be more successful and happy.  Happy teams are more productive, efficient and creative.  They are even healthier as happiness enhances one’s immune system as it changes brain chemistry.

Set Goals Together

The best way to refocus the employee’s attention is to put a deadline in front of them. To show your team members that you truly believe they have what it takes to re-engage and deliver results, collaboratively set a goal with them. Brainstorm a way in which they can uniquely contribute to a current or future project, and then set a firm deadline. Work with them, encourage and support them and check in often to help them succeed. You will soon watch that first success grow into a springboard for future goals and achievements.

Deliver Opportunities

One of the biggest culprits behind today’s levels of disengagement is boredom at work. Many employees begin a new job with excitement and enthusiasm, only to find the day-to-day work does not utilize their full potential and does not ask them for creative, problem-solving solutions. So try to shake up your employee’s daily routine. Maybe send them to an exciting industry conference. Perhaps you can attend an expert webinar together. Another option would be to set them up with a mentor in your organization. Find projects, where they can get into something they are passionate about that, which also offers both individual and professional growth. All these opportunities will expand their world at work and help to deliver a dose of inspiration and a fresh perspective.

Acknowledge their Contributions

There is nothing more motivating than a dose of appreciation at work—research proves it. Above a raise or a bonus, employees cite recognition and appreciation as their number one motivator for great work. So if you are truly committed to your disengaged employee turning over a new leaf, recognize them as they start making small steps in that direction. A simple thank you will work wonders in helping your disengaged employee feel like a valued and appreciated part of the team.  Then, when they accomplish some real results, celebrate the win publicly. It shows the employee and the entire team that you value and appreciate people and their great work.

Burnout and overworking will certainly cause the inspiration well to run dry so it definitely needs to be addressed as it will not fix itself, rather it will just get worse.

When a previously engaged employee starts falling down the slippery slope of disengagement, the whole team feels the negative ripple effects on their motivation, collaboration, and results. Follow these simple tips to turn the disengagement trend around, and your team member/s will be back to delivering great work and results for your team and your organization, which of course is a win/win for everyone.


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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    • Hi Mary, thanks so much for taking the time to read the post & adding your very valuable insights. I think Active Listening is the most important communication skill and most conflict results from poor listening. You are absolutely correct, we cannot learn anything when we speak, only when we listen and listen well.

  1. Good Sandy. and great suggestions
    The proposed situation is not so infrequent and may depend on various reasons that should be investigated.
    It often happens that a person goes through a delicate or fragile period and not necessarily just at work. However, when the period gets long, the relationship becomes increasingly tiring and stressful for everyone.
    Collaborators in crisis are often demotivated people and need to receive a new energy injection. We must arm ourselves with a lot of patience and not react with emotion, talk to him far from prying eyes, avoid sermons, listen without judging allowing the person to explain himself, focus on actions not on the person, renew confidence. In extreme cases it may be necessary to assign new tasks or intervene with specific training and coaching courses.

    • hi Aldo, I totally agree with you. Unfortunately, many managers do not get the training necessary to help them be able to do all that. It is very important to keep things private so that people are not embarrassed or upset as others do not need to know what is going on with them. I always appreciate your insights, Aldo and they are always wise ones.

  2. Sandy, with all the brilliant ideas/suggestions you make, I think at this point you could and should write a whole book on how to and how not to run a business incorporating all of your knowledge into it. I don’t know any business that would fail to see the tremendous value. Somebody who has all the knowledge and experience that you do need to be recognized on a very large scale.

    • thanks so much, Joel. I have actually road mapped a new book on how to create a culture for success, but have not had the time to actually write it yet. I have done lots of research on culture and have a pretty good idea of just how this gets established and maintained. I have given talks about this topic as well. Glad you liked the article, you know I always like yours.

    • Sandy, you have the ability to go into a business and analyze their whole operation and suggest corrections and improvements to increase efficiency and profitably. You would charge an upfront fee plus a small override on the extra revenue. Thank you for letting me know you like my articles. That means a lit as I am never sure if they are any good.

    • Yes, I think I could do that, Joel. Would have to add something to my website to let potential clients know that is another service I could provide. I will think about that.

    • In my estimation, you could also handle recruiting, in addition to employee evaluation. Having somebody like you can make a company that is doing good and turn them into a company that is doing great in just about all facets of their operation. Should you decide to get into any of these ventures please do not hesitate to ask me to provide a reference for you.

    • Not so sure about that one, Joel. I could give them some advice on how to do it but would not want to do that. It is better done internally.

    • Not wanting to do it is one thing but the right person to do it is you. A person who is on staff is not likely to have any of your experience, knowledge, ability, etc.

    • Maybe not, but they would know better what the company needs. I could help them with their interviewing skills but then they could do the interviewing. I would be more comfortable with that.

    • I am emphasizing the fact that you are a top-tier professional who is heads and shoulders above everybody else. I also wanted to see if I could make suggestions to you that would bring you more clients. You deserve all the success you have.

    • I do appreciate your suggestions, Joel and will consider some of what you have offered as it may open up some new avenues for me. Thanks so much.