Not Feeling Engaged At Work?  7 Signs of a Disengaged Employee

Employee engagement impacts the work environment as a whole, for better or for worse. Learn how to identify and assist disengaged employees.


Employee engagement can have an undeniable impact on a work environment as a whole, for better or for worse. When you feel engaged at work, productivity, communication, and project creativity increase. When you’re not feeling engaged at work, all of these metrics suffer.

How to Recognize Disengaged Employees

It’s important to recognize the signs of employee disengagement quickly, so you can reverse the trend and improve workplace performance. Here are 7 signs of a disengaged employee. 

1. Withdrawal

Low job satisfaction is the primary cause of employee withdrawal. Withdrawal often comes in stages. First, an employee will do the bare minimum to get by. Then, they’ll show up late. Finally, they might not show up to work often, call in sick, or use up all of their vacation days.

Employees use this strategy because they want to be as far from their job as possible. They understand that they need to work for a living, but they have no motivation to find another job or speak to their employers for help, as they may have been rejected or ignored in the past.

2. Unusual/Sudden Silence

Silence isn’t always a sign of disengagement, as they could be shy, but if your employee used to speak up in meetings and hasn’t in a while, that’s not good. Sudden silence may result from a personal issue or the feeling they aren’t heard, appreciated, or have any good ideas to offer.

It’s important to offer feedback or appreciation to disengaged employees, either with a private chat, goal-setting initiatives, or gifts like a custom engraved award from Offer support to your employees during this time, as they may be in shock or feel alienated.

3. Complacency

Employees who feel they can’t do anything right, no matter what they do, will become “yes men.” While agreement isn’t a sign of disengagement per se, people who agree with everything anyone says are afraid of confrontation or making mistakes. Thus, they become complacent. 

Complacent people are often disengaged from work because they feel they can’t offer input or inject creativity into their projects. Managers and employees need to have an honest two-way dialog about each other’s performance if they want to see improvement in this area.

4. Fatigue/Exhaustion

When you’re not feeling engaged at work, life can be a miserable experience. We spend a significant part of our lives working for someone else, and if we feel unappreciated on top of that, resentment can start to build. These feelings will bleed into our personal lives. 

A large portion of Americans will feel stressed during the weekends, specifically Sunday, because they don’t want to return to work. They may toss and turn at night and fail to get enough sleep. By Monday, they’re tired, burnout, and too exhausted to participate at work.

5. Naysaying or Rudeness

Anyone who feels forced to do something they don’t want to do is guaranteed to be in a bad mood. If going to work is at the bottom of their want list but at the top of their priority list, what results is a lot of negativity. This negativity can rub off on your employees and managers.

Disengaged employees show verbal negativity in two ways: naysaying and rudeness. To address this issue, you need to allow your employee to be honest with you without the fear of being terminated. There may be a structural or personal reason why their attitude changed.

6. Adoption of Bad Habits

Most of your employees will have a routine. Whether that routine is “good” or “bad” isn’t your business unless it’s illegal or affecting their quality of work. However, if an employee has suddenly adopted a smoking habit or is drinking more than usual, that’s concerning. 

It’s common for people to adopt bad habits because they’re trying to fill a void, whether it’s work dissatisfaction or otherwise. You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, address the addiction head-on. Instead, ask if there’s anything you can do to provide support or if they need a day off.

7. Lack of Interest

Lack of interest in your company isn’t necessarily a sign of disengagement. Your employees won’t be interested in the state of your company or marketplace trends if they have no stake in it. However, a total lack of interest in their own growth or goals is a telltale disengagement sign.

Sometimes, an employee may not want to move into another role or learn a new skill because they just want to get their paycheck and go home. Other times, employees don’t see a future in your company or aren’t presented with learning opportunities. Either way, they aren’t motivated.

Improving Employee Engagement Can be Tricky

When making changes in your organization, it’s essential to ensure everyone is on board with your new initiatives. Managers and the leadership team should encourage open communication and feedback, which will enable you to address engagement issues quickly and greatly reduce employee turnover.


CXC is a global HR outsourcing organization with 30 years of experience in workforce management. Our innovative and cost-effective solutions help companies gain a competitive advantage by improving efficiency while reducing risks

Contact CXC today to start enabling your future workforce.