4 Steps You Should Take When Your Employees Are Disengaged

At SpiceUp we talk a lot about if the Employee is engaged or on the verge of being engaged where they need just a little bit of encouragement. This does not always happen though…

What should you do when you have identified an employee as Disengaged?

We have 4 steps to take to make sure you are handling the Disengaged Employee situation the best.

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Step 1: Make Sure The Employee Is Actually Disengaged.

As noted in previous blogs, we know what Engaged Employees look like. In this case, we have a good sense that the Employee is disengaged, but we don’t want to act upon anything until we know for sure.

Here are 5 telling signs to know an Employee is Disengaged:

  1. When Employees provide frequent excuses for why their work is late, their production isn't up-to-par, or they lie about the status of their work all together.

  2. When Employees take single PTO (Paid Time Off) days multiple weeks in a row, which is an indicator that there's a job search underway, and have recently started updating their LinkedIn profiles.

  3. When Employees stop being team players.

  4. When Employees lack enthusiasm and initiative for their jobs.

  5. When Employees are comfortable with status quo and exhibit no desire to grow.

After you see one of these five signs or any other sign of disengagement, it is important to analyze how far along Employees are in being disengaged:

  • Are they just content where they are and not trying to help anyone get better?

  • Have they been interviewing for different roles?

  • Are they starting to become actively disengaged and causing disruption in your company?

These things directly affect how to handle disengaged employees in the next steps.

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Step 2. Analyze Your Situation With The Employee

Now that you know that this employee is disengaged, it is important to identify some key information about your company’s relationship with them to make the best decision.

Here are some key questions to answer before making a decision on what to do with the disengaged employee:

How Valuable Is This Employee To The Organization?

Is this person bringing more value than they cost? When thinking about this question, consider these factors:

  1. The Employee’s output and productivity

  2. How other people view the Employee? (Influencer In Your Organization?)

  3. Their potential for growth/ willingness to learn

  4. How they treat other people in your company

What Is Bothering The Employee?

After analyzing the value of the employee and realizing they are valuable to the company, it is time to have a nice one on one chat with the employee to see what is bothering them or what is causing them to be disengaged.

Can This Employee Be Converted To An Engaged Employee?

Sometimes there is some hope left with Employees depending on the circumstances that you can gauge with a one on one conversation with them. Do they think anything can change or are they convinced nothing will change?

How Much Effort Will Be Needed To Get The Person Engaged?

If there is some hope left to get this Employee engaged, will it take a lot of work to get them engaged? This may change your decision with how to proceed in the relationship.

What Are The Impacts Of The Options With The Employee?

At this point in the fact finding mission you are on with your disengaged employee, it is important to look at the full picture and understand the impacts of your decision.

  1. If the employee is extremely valuable to the company with important knowledge sitting in their head, it may be worth it to make an effort to get it out of them or try to keep them on.

  2. Are there many other personnel changes happening right now, people leaving, that would negatively affect the way the rest of the team is feeling? This would be a major impact to the overall moral of the team.

  3. Are you going to be putting way more work on your team for losing this person? Based on the person productivity, you may want to try ways to convince the person to stay.

  4. If the person stays, will they actually do good work?

  5. What other impacts could this change have on your organization? Make sure to dive into all aspects of work to analyze the impacts that keeping or losing the employee will have.

Note: When working on getting information with all of these questions you may need to get more information from the Employee themselves, SpiceUp can help! Pepper can be your form of communication over a period of time to gather information about the employees situation.

With the answers to these questions, you will have the right information to make an educated decision on what to do with the disengaged employee, which is the next step.

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Step 3: Make A Decision

As much as we would be able to identify the best solution, there is no silver bullet for handling disengaged employees. There are too many different things that need to be taken into consideration.

Let’s look at two different situations examples of how you could work with a disengaged employee:

Example One - Overwhelmed Ollie:

Picture an employee that has been working 60 hours a week on a project for the past 2 months and desperately needs resource help. Ollie is starting to lose steam and quality of his work is declining. At the same time, when you look at all of the things he is involved with, he is a huge asset to the team, taking care of bringing on people to feel at home and has a lot of tribal knowledge.

Our decision with Ollie would be to sit down to help with work/ life balance. Take the time to discuss how valuable he is to the team and that he can always reach out for more resource help. It is worth it to keep Ollie happy so we put together a plan to figure out what skillsets the resources need and go find him help.

Example Two - Disrupter Dawn:

Dawn comes in as a leader and makes changes on the fly whenever she wants with any projects she feels like stepping in on. She is always talking about how she is on track to getting a promotion to another team or she will be picked up by another company at a higher level. Starting to take one day off at a time in consecutive weeks after a different person is promoted.

After doing some analysis on her as an employee, the leadership team identifies the “value” she brings to the project from feedback they get from other team members. After quick deliberation, one of the other Execs finds her a position outside of the company.

These are two very different employees, but by using the steps above the right decision was made for both of them.

As you could see from the scenarios above, there was not just a decision made and it miraculously happens. Instead, there is some execution needed on your teams end to reap the benefits of the decision you make.

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Step 4: Executing On Your Decision And Tracking The Change

The last thing you need to do is execute on the decision you have made on the Employee.

If you want them to stay: Work with the Employee to identify the action plan needed to get them back to being engaged. You can utilize some of the key drivers to employee engagement like role clarity to help them become more engaged.

Note: DO NOT OFFER ONLY COMPENSATION AS A WAY TO GET ENGAGED!

If you want them to leave: Work with them to do a knowledge transfer, if applicable, and help identify next steps. The worst thing to do here would be to burn bridges because that could negatively impact some of your remaining team. Remember, these people still have relationships with the people on your team and have some influence.

Then it is important to take the time to track the change:

If they decide to stay: Take a look at their productivity and output. Are they consistently doing better? If the Employee does better and seems happier, you have made the right choice. Nice Job!

If they leave: Track how the rest of your team is doing with the change. Are there any people who are starting to have disengaged signs now? If they are, and you did not see it coming, make sure to document this as you are working through the next disengagement task. Seeing a trend of this may mean something bigger in your organization is happening that you will need to identify before more of your “A” Players leave.

Tracking the change is one of the most important steps because you can see how well your disengagement process is performing. Just like many other decisions in your team, the disengagement decisions you make could impact the future of your team.

Bringing It All Together:

4 steps is all it takes to work through an instance of having a disengaged employee. It could be the difference of losing one of your best team members or building trust with your whole team to create a culture of engagement that can take on any problem.

Take the time today to see if you have a disengagement process. You won’t be disappointed you did!

Go forth and Grow Happiness.



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