5 signs your team are disengaged

Tom McCarthy Category 01

5 Signs Your Team Are Disengaged

You wouldn’t believe it BUT 76% of Australian employees, (that’s approximately 8.74 million workers!) are disengaged in their job (Senior Consultant Anton Buchner of TrinityP3. How do you know your team are engaged? This is such an important question to think about as each team member can be quite different from the next. We’re not saying you need to customise your engagement plan for each individual employee, but we do encourage you to watch out for the signs. A disengaged employee can be detrimental to the overall engagement of your team.


Here are some common comments you may hear from those who are disengaged in your team.


1. “I don’t want to have to participate in this wellness program!”

When an employee shows absolutely no interest in programs that connect with your workplace culture, it indicates a level of disengagement. You will often find they seem bored and show no enthusiasm when the programs are running. These employees often complain, rarely behave in line with your core values and often remove themselves from group activities. For example, you may have your team eat lunch together on Fridays. The disengaged employees will often have an excuse as to why they cannot attend.


Ask these employees why they don’t want to participate or why they often complain about things that relate back to your culture. It’s important to educate your team on the reasons why you are conducting certain programs so they can understand the benefits. You could even raise the query directly to them about their disengagement. This puts the ball back in their court and shifts the responsibility onto them.


2. “Did you hear about that meeting Dave had with the big boss? It sounded heated.”

The Gossip doesn’t do much for the overall engagement of your team. The person who is gossiping in the business is usually the person who has nothing better to do. They are killing time talking about people rather than doing their work. They are not engaged in their role and often find themselves doing things that wastes everyone else’s time too. The employees who gossip are potentially affecting your team dynamics and morale. When the Gossip succeeds in spreading their negativity, they create cliques in your workplace resulting in a group of disengaged people.


Overcome this by having a strict no gossip policy in place. It’s tough to monitor but when you have great employees in your team such as potential managers and leaders, discuss with them the direction you wish to take the team and have them shut down any gossip when they encounter it. It’s about having your engaged employees in the right mindset to minimise any negativity and disengagement. It takes a certain character not to get sucked in to gossip and to completely disregard it. The disengaged employee will eventually get bored and realise their behaviour is not favourable or beneficial to their success.


3. “I prefer to sit on my own away from everyone.”

You will often find these employees working on their own, barely engaging with the team and rarely getting involved in team bonding activities. It’s great to have employees who are dedicated to their work however at times these employees are disengaged from the team because they are disconnected from their role and the business. This means they may not actually be working as productively as you think. Don’t be fooled by their quietness as it may seem they have their head down when in actual fact their head is actually up in the clouds.


It’s so important to have a strong team bond as nothing beats collaboration! Your team need to be working productively together, bouncing ideas off one another with the banter and laughs throughout the day. We encourage you to have your team work together on some projects so they can build the bond. There are subtle exercises you can have your team participate in. They won’t even know it’s an official ‘team bonding’ exercise. For example, have your team run a meeting one morning on their own. Have an employee take minutes or notes and ask them to report back to you. It seems simple but it can actually be effective and break down some barriers. If you notice an employee in particular who is more independent, have them actually run the meeting for you to see the shift in their engagement.


4. “You didn’t end up telling me where the file was. That’s why it’s not done. ”


This person often waits to be told what to do next. Although they are still completing the duties of their role, they are not taking initiative or looking at different ways to grow within their role. You will often find you are always directing this employee to do the next thing. They are incapable of taking their role by the horns and completely owning their responsibilities. Those who do take initiative are usually the ones who help grow your business as they’re growing within their role.


Don’t worry, there are ways to overcome this issue. Ask your team for their feedback within their role or better yet, conduct a brainstorming session in an open meeting to gage which of your employees are actually disengaged to refocus their efforts. Provide clarity in your expectations. You can then sit down and have a conversation with those who may need some extra motivation (even though you want people who are self-motivated). These employees may not even have the confidence to step outside their comfort zone and think big. They may just need that extra push! Either way, you don’t want this behaviour in your business as it can spread throughout the team.


5. “These reports are so annoying and such a time waster”


Then there’s the one employee who complains about all the work they have to do. This employee is hard to please as nothing is ever good enough for them. They will always find some fault or issue in a task or project they are required to complete. This complaining can spread throughout the team causing a ‘bad smell’ around the office. There are always going to be tedious tasks in the workplace and some employees do fixate on these minuscule issues.


Nip it in the backside as soon as a little complaint comes up. Discuss with the disengaged employee that their complaining can negatively impact the team. Also educate your employees on your policy about complaints and ensure they are encouraging the team to be positive and focus on the reason the tasks are set rather than wasting time complaining about them. Alternatively, use this opportunity to discuss constructive feedback rather than whinging. If there is a complaint, request the employee’s input in gaining a viable solution.

Don’t take our word for it. A recent study shows “25% are engaged, 25% are actively disengaged and the other 50% are just doing enough to keep out of trouble. Without going into all the possible reasons, managers claim they are “time poor” and under more pressure than ever before. While this could be an excuse, it seems to be their reality. They claim not to have the time to devote to the varied needs of the work force. In many cases, it is these unmet needs that cause a poor return on the company’s investment in human capital.” (Source: http://www.carnegiemg.com.au/business-coaching/workplace-engagement/current-employee-engagement-levels-australian-business/)


It takes two to tango! However there comes a point where there is only so much you can do as an employer to help your disengaged individuals. If you feel you have done all that you can and some are still disengaged, we encourage you to sit down and have an open conversation with your employees. Use some of the points we have made to re-engage the individuals needing some more attention. We all seek a happy and harmonious workplace and it is common that one disengaged employee can indeed bring the rest of the team down. This is something you want to avoid as this type of behaviour can manifest. To ensure a productive and engaged team, be aware of signs like these, create exercises to minimise the risk of disengagement and always have conversations with your team when and if you notice any of these kinds of behaviours.