Factors that lead to Employee Disengagement in the Workplace. Signs you have a Disengaged Employee.

In our last article, we discussed what employee engagement is, why it is important, how we can recognize engaged employees and some strategies in order to prevent employee disengagement from happening. We also highlighted some mistakes companies make when trying to engage with their employees. You can check out and read the full blog post here.

In today’s article we are going to go over the main factors that lead to employees getting disengaged in the workplace. Some factors might come off as a surprise, while others are signs you possibly saw from the beginning. While, there are many factors and reasons that causes employees to become disengaged, we are going to start with outside factors that affect particular situations (eg: work environment, team members, managers, work culture, and more) and then we are going to go over the reasons that affect personal growth and development. Some of the factors affecting personal growth and development could be associated with: lack of challenges, lack of feedback or even burnout. 

The Big Two Categories That Can Cause Employee Disengagement

From our perspective we can have two main categories that lead and contribute to employees getting disengaged. They are as follows: 

  • Internal Work Situations – these are situations that are related to leadership, work organization, work culture and even work processes.
  • Personal Views – these include the lack of challenges in the workplace, inability to connect or see the purpose of the actual work, lack of vision, inability to further grow and develop in the company.

Having these two categories in mind, we can now dive in deeper and go over actual factors that cause an employee getting disengaged in the workplace. In our experience, the most likely cause of employees getting disengaged in the workplace is a combination of both categories. For example: we can have an employee that is struggling to see the purpose of their work, they start lacking a vision and a purpose on what they are doing and they can also have struggles with the work organization or work culture which in time will lead to even more a lack of satisfaction and disengagement in the workplace. 

Now that we have categories, from our perspectives the two main factors, we can go over practical examples and possible signs of employees getting disengaged. Before getting started, we want to underline that the factors are not presented in a particular order. 

Management and Leadership Conflicts

The most likely cause that can lead to employees getting disengaged and then ultimately leaving their job is due to management and leadership. While there is possible that there are no “at sight” conflicts, that does not mean that you are a good manager or a good leader. 

Ineffective management is a leading cause that leads to employees getting disengaged. Have you ever heard the phrase: “People don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses”? Well, in this particular case, it is true.

When it comes to leadership and management styles, there are many ways in which the top managers can create conflicts that lead to disengagement and some of them might even come as a surprise.  Here are some examples:

  • an absent leader will cause employees to get disengaged. Do you know that manager that takes a mini vacation every few weeks? Yes, we do too. Or that manager that you just struggle to connect or create a meaningful relationship with? 
  • a manager that lacks the leadership style to communicate well and identify areas of improvement and growth
  • a manager that is not in the loop with ongoing activities or issues – once again, this goes back to communication. A manager that fails to communicate well will also fail to know the issues that either the company faces or the employee.

Not Having a Direction  – Lack of Vision, Goals and a Direction

While it is important to make a clear distinction between having personal goals and a direction, in this point we are referring to having a lack of direction and vision in the workplace.

It is true that some employees do not need direction or that they know very well why they are doing the work that they are doing but is it important to mention that not everyone is in the same boat. Some employees want to be included in the vision of the company. They want to know the direction that they are headed and they need a perspective. For this they need to be reminded what the goals of the company are and what is the plan moving forward.

We encourage providing re-current information and even set meetings that go over the goals and the direction the company plans on moving forward and to include employees. This way, they can match their own goals to the goals of the company and this way you will ensure that the business as well as the employees move in the same direction.

We know that employees thrive when they are up to date with the newest changes in the company and will appreciate it more when they are not taken by surprise by changes or new procedures or protocols. 

Lack of Feedback and a Lack of Appreciation 

A lack of feedback could go hand in hand with management conflicts or leadership styles but we created a dedicated category – as it is really really important.

A great manager or leader will be able to give all types of feedback: including constructive or less constructive without creating harm.

It is especially important to provide feedback that is genuinely informative and helpful. Please see the following image for examples.

Overall Work Environment, Chaotic Procedures and Pay

Everyone can sense the work environment. Even someone who does not work in that place. It is something that contributes to the well being of your employees. If there is a chaotic, very stressful workplace that over time does not seem to get better, employees will leave. 

It is acceptable to have stressful, recurring situations but the day to day operations should not affect the overall state of employees to a point that they are going to quit because of the toxic work environment or chaotic procedures. If you see employees struggling, with too many tasks, not meeting deadlines, reacting to situations that do not necessarily need a reaction, communicate with them and help them overcome the situation they are in. 

We often see a combination of a stressful work environment with chaotic procedures and bad pay. This will undoubtedly lead to employees getting disengaged. 

While we mentioned chaotic procedures, it is equally important to mention that the lack of procedures will lead to the same disengagement from the employees. 

Inability to Further Grow in the Company

Another big factor leading to employees getting disengaged is the inability to further grow or develop in the company. This is related to employees feeling “stuck” in their workplace. Maybe they have been in the same position for years and they can no longer grow or develop in the company or maybe they do too many repetitive tasks that no longer create a meaningful experience for them. 

While the inability to further develop in a company can happen often, companies should consider: offering training, courses and mentorship programs that can be chosen by the employees based on a specific list. It is even recommended to let employees choose, as they might have other interests with which they can bring new value in the company.

Lack of Challenges & Burnout

This factor, unfortunately, needs little to no explaining. After 2020, we have seen burnout rates increase and there are more and more articles and press releases covering this topic. 

In the next articles, we can go over strategies to either prevent burnout or solutions for it. Please let us know if you would be interested in such an article. 

Conclusions

Having a combination of the factors mentioned above, will lead to employee disengagement that will eventually lead to employees quitting. While we hope this article was helpful and insightful for you, we are going to end this blog post with a question. Do you know your employees retention rate? Here is some food for thought for the next article.

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