Reasons For Employee Disengagement and How to Fix It

Sri Chellappa,
President/Co-Founder at Engagedly

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Some statistics are too scary to peruse and so are the articles concerned with employee disengagement. They tell you how costly employee disengagement can be. Though you understand the devastating effects of employee disengagement by the end of the article or report, you might not know how to fix it.

It is important for you to know why employees become disengaged and it is all the more important that you know how to fix it – before the situation becomes worse. Sometimes, outside factors are not at play rather, the fault lies within the organization itself. And this is something that you need to keep in mind. That the fault does not lie with your employee, that it might lie with you.

Employees Aren’t Clear Of Their Role In The Organization
As surprising as this fact is, it is true in many cases. An employee who does not know how they fit into the grand scheme of things, cannot be a productive part of an organization. When employees have little insight on their organizational objectives, values, and end goals, their motivation to work is considerably low. They do not know if their work will be valued, or even if they are on the right track.

How can you fix this? Clearly delineate roles and responsibilities right from the start. Lay out the goals you would like your employees to have. Collaborate with them on figuring out what role they play in the organization. And most important of all – know that every employee is vital to an organization. The moment you start weighing employees against each other, that is when you begin to lose them.

Flexibility And Freedom Of Expression
There’s no bigger downer than not being allowed to freely express ideas or having to deal with inflexible minds. And even worse, when employees cannot integrate them into the organization because their values do not align with that of the organization. That is the quickest way to alienate employees.

How do you fix this? Granted – an organization might already have a set of pre-existing values that it holds dear. But the important thing to remember is that values can change. Your core values can stay the same. But your other values will naturally undergo changes as time passes. Holding onto rigid ideas of expression and work habits can not only make many employees uneasy, but it can also quickly make them disengage.

No Appreciation/ Recognition
Appreciation is vital to employees. Nobody is a robot, and rare is the employee who can carry on without a word of praise or motivation. When employees feel like they aren’t getting the appreciation they deserve or even the motivation to attempt something, disengaging becomes as easy as disconnecting a wire.

How do you fix this? Employees do not have to be praised fulsomely or excessively. They do not even need extravagant rewards. It can be something as simple ( but sincere and heartfelt) as, “ I like the progress you are making. Keep it up!” and it will lift their spirits like no other.

Lack Of Communication
When communication is fraught with difficulties and roadblocks and feedback is not allowed, there’s no transfer of information or opinions and there is no way for an employee to realize what the others are doing. And not knowing is just as bad as not doing anything.

Lack of communication can effectively kill any productivity that may have been there and put off employees who will then feel disengaged from the organization. How do you fix this? Nobody can read minds. Not employees and certainly not managers. Communication is one of the key aspects of engagement. And you need to make it a habit. Not only for yourself, but also for your employees. Encourage communication by defining clear communication channels. This drives easy communication and increases employee engagement. This is because everyone knows what is going on, right from the highest executive at the top, to the person at the bottom.

When agendas are clear, feedback is encouraged and communication appreciated, things are hum.

Lack Of Opportunities
Career growth is important. If an employee’s growth at an organization is stunted or not allowed to develop, they disengage and also disrupt other employees around them.

How do you fix this? When an organization provides an employee with opportunities to learn and grow continuously, it allows employees to upgrade their skills and increase their knowledge. Investing, time, money and effort on a learning management system which allows you to keep track of the progress of your learners would be a wise choice to make. It also allows you to know if employees meet their learning goals consistently.

Deep-rooted disengagement isn’t something that can be easily fixed overnight. However, this is something that organizations can work on over a period of time. Change, as always begins at the top. A leader’s engagement can engage senior leaders, who in turn can engage managers, who in turn can engage employees. You cannot expect it to go all the way up from the bottom. Engagement does not work like that. It’s a trickle-down effect. Leaders need to set an example that the rest of the organization can emulate.

There are many ways to tackle employee disengagement. In addition to leaders rediscovering what it means to be engaged and communicating that to your employees, it is also important to implement policies that improve employee engagement or enhance it. These policies could range anywhere from offering more perks or even making a concentrated effort that change workplace culture.

If there’s one that is certain about disengagement, it is this. There’s a long way to go before one can see concrete results. But employee engagement is something all organizations should be involved in. After all, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

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Srikant Chellappa, Founder/President (
20 years in software development and consulting in the U.S.
Eight years with EY/Capgemini in management and IT consulting
Bachelor’s in Engineering and MBA in International Business/Finance