What is Employee Disengagement?

Actively disengaged employees are defined as employees who aren’t just unhappy at work; they are busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish. Employee disengagement is related to employee engagement, these phenomena are often studied as being connected to each other and disengagement is often discussed in the context of its negative influence on the organisation. Kahn (1990, p. 701) gave following definition for personal disengagement:

“Personal disengagement … is the simultaneous withdrawal and defence of a person’s preferred self in behaviours that promote a lack of connections, physical, cognitive, and emotional absence, and passive, incomplete role performance.”

In essence a disengaged employee shows the following character traits:

  • Disengaged employees are not enthusiastic.
  • They do not expend extra effort
  • They do not support team work.
  • They adopt a “wait-and-see attitude” and behave in a similar way requiring a push to join in.
  • Workers with a low level of engagement are disinterested and not curious about their organisation and their own role in it.
  • They often have poor relationships with their managers and co-workers.
  • Disengaged workers can negatively influence morale and revenues of the organisation.
  • They often make trouble, complain, and have accidents.
  • They can harm the organisation in the manner in which they speak to customers; their negative behaviour affects client satisfaction, and can lead to the loss of them.
  • Disengaged employees are usually unhappy at work and actively express this feeling. The negative influence of such workers constantly affects other people in the team and destroys achievements of engaged workmates.
  • Disengaged employees are disconnected from their jobs, tend to be significantly less efficient and less loyal to their organisations.
  • They are usually less satisfied with their personal lives, experience more stress and insecurity about their job than their co-workers.
  • They must be motivated to perform on an hourly basis.
  • They drag themselves through their day, contributing the bare minimum and often detracting from the work of their peers with negative comments or an overwhelming pessimism that is energy draining.
  • Their pessimism is so toxic that it affects not only co-workers, but customers as well, driving away potential business and harming previously solid customer relationships.

Organisations should pay attention to the employee disengagement phenomenon, because it has a great impact on both the worker and employer, just as employee engagement. By examining the effects of disengagement on both the worker and company, it is possible to conclude that this phenomenon can cause significant harm to the business. The only way to get protection from the effects of employee disengagement is to stop it by identifying and eliminating its causes.

For more information contact Ben vd Westhuyzen at ben@succeedgroup.co.za

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.