by Michael D. Brown

In a recent Dale Carnegie Research Survey of 1500 employees, it was found that 45% of employees are not engaged and an additional 26% are actively disengaged in their work. An actively disengaged employee is actively looking for a job at another company, or has lost all interest in where they are currently working. That means 71% of employees are at some significant level disengaged in their work. Further research shows that companies with engaged employees outperform companies with disengaged employees by more than 202%.

The perils of the disengaged employee are well-documented. Disengaged employees are employees who show up for work every day, but don’t feel connected to their jobs, companies, bosses or coworkers. Their performance is mediocre, lacks efficiency, and their behavior often negatively affects coworkers. Most business experts agree a disgruntled employee is a much greater threat to your organization than one who quits, which is two-fold as disengaged employees are also the employees most likely to quit and go to another company—at the cost of over $11-billion a year (the estimated cost of turn-over to American companies).

Following are 6.5 reasons employees become disengaged, and how you can help prevent it.

  1. Employers don’t engage. Many employers don’t engage their employees on a personable level. Employers simply assign work, hand out paychecks, and leave workers feeling very much like small cogs in a large Any human engagement, even something as small as a suggestion box, monthly birthday celebration, or words of encouragement from a boss can go a long way toward making employees feel engaged with their work.
  2. Employers don’t listen. Many organizations operate in a “top-down,” hierarchical format where senior managers give direction to middle managers, who pass direction to employees. Obviously, most companies can’t function as direct democracies where everyone has an equal say. But, too rigid a hierarchy creates feelings of resentment and powerlessness among the “rank and file.” Unchecked, these feelings lead to disengagement.

Discretion is the better part of listening. Any time a new process or responsibility is implemented, be open and accessible for both positive and negative criticism. The people performing tasks have insight that leadership will not see.

  1. Good performance is its own When employees consistently perform well, but do not receive reward or recognition beyond lower-performing individuals, the overachievers will become disengaged. Employees do not need a bonus check every time they go above and beyond, but without consistently recognizing exceptional performance your top employees will not feel appreciated.

Performance does not have to be financially costly. For example, recognition can be as simple as public praise or small monetary compensations such as a gift certificate to a local restaurant. However, for employees who frequently outperform recognition should come in way of a positive review that shows you see the positive impact the employee makes along with higher-than-average pay increases and potentially a bonus. By tying financial rewards positive performance employers can ensure they still leave room for the company to profit.

  1. Too much work. The pace of modern business requires employees to produce more results with longer hours than ever before. A recent Gallup Poll found that half of employees work more than a 40-hour work week with nearly 20% of employees working 60+ hours per week. Much of this is due to technology and easier, “quick,” accessibility to employees who are not at work, or the ability for employees to bring work home with them.

Employers need to realize that at a certain point, the quantity of hours worked starts to have a negative impact on quality of work. Only ask for extra hours when they are truly needed (such as an imminent deadline for a major project), and only text, call, or email off-hours in an emergency. Employees who are allowed to engage in their personal lives will be more engaged at work.

  1. Not enough play. The workplace does not have to be an adult playground. But an office or worksite that only offers drudgery and stress will breed disengagement. Provide break areas that let employees relax and have fun when they need a few minutes away from their desk or workspace. A few beanbag chairs and foosball tables can go a long way. Investments in free perks like snacks and beverages will pay for themselves in increased employee engagement.
  2. Employees feel disrespected. A lack of respect is one of those situations that is hard to define, but everyone knows it when they experience it. Disrespect is an active effort where lack of communication and belittling employees for speaking up is disrespectful. Publicly screaming at an employee who is tardy is disrespectful, while calling them into a supervisor’s office for a private discussion on the concern is more appropriate. Disrespected employees become disengaged.

6.5 Don’t be a dead end.

Disengaged employees are disengaged for a reason. Most often the employee does not feel as if they fit into their environment, are not feeling heard by their employer, are disrespected, or don’t think their employer understands what they do 40+ hours a week they commit to work. This lack of engagement results in poor quality of work, loss of efficiency, and a costly high turn-over rate.

But, you and your company can turn these problems around with visible employee-focused engagement and a proactive approach to recognition.

Do you think you have an engaged work force? Or, are you afraid your workforce is ready to walk out the door all at once? Use the checklist below to help you determine if your work force is diengaged and identify how to reengage.

Engaged work force? Ask yourself:

  • When was the last time you positively engaged an employee? If you have gone more than a couple days without engaging with an employee, you are setting yourself up for a disengaged workforce. Set yourself a goal of engaging with at least one employee per day, and at least 3 different, or new employees every week.
  • Has an employee come to you recently with feedback? Successful leaders find that employees frequently come to them with proactive feedback. If you do not regularly hear feedback from your employees take the time to talk to them directly or offer an anonymous way to communicate to you such as a suggestion box. Most importantly, show the entire group that you have received the feedback and are encouraged to take action.
  • Do employees go out of their way to tell you how much they are working? Everyone wants to know that you know how much time they are putting in. An employee may not approach you about working 40 hours a week, but if they work 50, you will hear about it. Work with your employees on more efficient ways to manage projects and communication and follow-up programs that will limit the amount of off-work work that is being done. Often working more hours is a matter of poor
  • Do your employees look happy? It is easy to see someone with a confident and comfortable smile. It is just as easy to see someone faking a smile and walking with their head down. Take a casual stroll through your work area and see if employees appear to be happy, or look overworked, tired, and preoccupied.
  • How do employees respond to your approach? Employees who feel disrespected don’t want to be anywhere near you and will often go to lengths to avoid you. When yu walk toward an employee do you see that person walk away, look down, or pretend they don’t see you? While yelling, belittling comments, and visible anger are obvious signs of disrespect, your employee’s reaction can be more subtle. Before you are involved in a difficult or potentially angry conversation, take a moment to put yourself in mentor-state and focus on coaching an employee instead of reprimanding an employee.