Stop the disengaged employee

After working hard to build a successful, groundbreaking startup, it might be easy to assume that your team members are as excited about your company as you are. Unfortunately, employee disengagement can arise within even the most dynamic companies. Find out what some of the warning signs are and learn how to fix employee disengagement and build a dedicated team.

Unless you’ve dealt with a disengaged employee in the past, it isn’t always easy to recognize this issue. If you don’t know what to look for, you may not realize that your employee has lost interest in the job until it’s too late. Rather than letting employee disengagement build or spread to other team members, look for these eight warning signs.

1. Frequent complaints

Whether you have a human resources department or a protocol for reporting internal issues, every company needs an outlet for letting employees file complaints. When your employees start complaining about each and every thing, from mundane tasks to major challenges, there’s a good chance they’ve become disengaged.

2. Constant excuses

Dedicated employees know they’re part of the team, and they strive to do their part, even when it requires hard work. Disengaged employees constantly make excuses for their lack of commitment and rarely take responsibility for their shortcomings.

3. Refusal to help out

Great employees know they signed up to a specific job, but they also know that sometimes they need to go above and beyond for the benefit of a colleague or for the good of the company. In contrast, a disengaged employee does only enough to get by and regularly refuses to help, even when it hurts the team.

4. Lack of initiative

When you’re building an amazing company, you depend on your team to have your back and show interest in launching new products or taking things to the next level. Employees who become disengaged often lack initiative or excitement and may even talk down the company’s newest project.

5. Increased mistakes

Employees who love their jobs certainly aren’t immune to making mistakes, but their work usually follows a recognizable pattern. If you notice an increase in mistakes or a general loss of focus, this could signal a disengaged employee.

6. Drop in growth

Your best employees are driven, successful professionals who constantly strive to learn more and improve their skills. When you offer an on-the-job training session or invite your team to take professional classes, your best employees jump at the chance to boost their portfolios. Disengaged employees typically aren’t interested in growth and may even appear to lose skills over time.

7. Few questions

Great employees understand they don’t know everything, and they don’t hesitate to ask questions to learn more about the task at hand or demonstrate curiosity about a larger project. In contrast, disengaged employees ask few questions, even when they don’t understand what they’re working on. Employees who refuse to engage at this basic level signal they simply can’t be bothered to feign interest.

8. Refusal to collaborate

Whether your team works from a shared office space or you get together to do a lot of group projects, collaborating and bouncing ideas off each other is essential. Watch out for employees who refuse to join your brainstorming sessions or who won’t share their contributions with the rest of the team, as there’s a good chance their dedication is suffering.

How to improve employee disengagement

Whether you’ve identified an employee who seems to have checked out or you want to take a proactive approach, there are several ways to address employee commitment and interest. No matter which route you take, remember that not all disengaged employees want to lose their jobs. Many will want to resolve the issues at hand and renew their dedication to your company. Try these 10 steps to improve employee disengagement and rally your team.

1. Welcome diversity

No matter your industry, one of the most substantial benefits of a great team is that it includes a variety of experts. With so many high-level skills and talents at play, however, you can’t expect everyone to have identical work styles or the same approach to the job. Rather than trying to get everyone on the same page, embrace their differences and welcome input and ideas from everyone.

2. Show appreciation for great work

As a startup founder, you expect your employees to work hard and do amazing things. You can’t expect them to keep doing so without a bit of recognition along the way, though. Overwork can lead to burnout, which can be a precursor to disengagement. To avoid this easily preventable problem, make a point of showing your appreciation for great work. From employee appreciation awards and weekly shout-outs to tangible incentives and bonuses, there are plenty of ways you can reward employees for doing a great job.

3. Set ambitious goals

Employees who don’t feel like they’re getting enough out of the job are liable to lose focus and let their interest fade. Rather than allowing them to completely disengage, try working with them to set goals together. This could be something as simple as giving employees clear deadlines for individual phases of long-term projects. You could also take goal-setting to another level by inviting employees to contribute to an exciting new project. Whatever it is, work together to talk through the goals and follow up to make sure they’re on track.

4. Model ways to overcome mistakes

Sometimes employees lose interest not because they aren’t getting enough rewards or they aren’t being challenged enough, but because they know they made a huge mistake. Even after owning up to errors and working with management to fix them, employees don’t always know how to bounce back after a major slip-up. Once you’ve worked together to resolve the issue, demonstrate the right way to move on after a mistake. Employees who learn resilience are more apt to be engaged and stay committed.

5. Be more transparent

In some cases, employees lose interest or appear uncommitted because they feel misled or don’t think the company has their best interests in mind. One of the most effective ways to address this issue directly is to commit to being more transparent. This means sharing both good and bad news with employees before it makes headlines and talking with your team about strategic shifts. By increasing transparency, you’ll demonstrate honesty and integrity, increasing the chance that you’ll receive both in return.

6. Offer better work-life balance

Whether you’ve been asking more and more of your employees lately or your team has always worked long hours, a poor work-life balance can lead to employee disengagement. Talk with your team about how to get things back on track in a way that works for the company and for your staff. Improving work-life balance could include allowing employees to work remotely, permitting flexible work hours, or letting team members adjust their schedules to meet family needs. You might also consider giving employees guaranteed time off so they can set their work phones aside and live their lives.

7. Encourage positive corporate culture

A negative or unhealthy corporate culture is likely to alienate employees, which can quickly cause them to disconnect and lose their dedication to the job. If your management team is committed to making a wide-ranging change, however, you can work to develop a positive corporate culture that reengages employees. To create a positive environment, encourage social events and collaborative projects, and schedule downtime into the day. Plan group lunches or happy hours, and don’t skimp on the teambuilding activities. This may be a big change for your company, but it’s one that could do wonders to engage employees.

8. Rethink your management style

If you just have one or two problem employees, it’s easy to pin the blame on them and assume they’re in the wrong. What if you could completely transform their performance, just by making a few tweaks to your management style? Get feedback from your management team and discuss ways the company could provide more hands-on or hands-off management for certain teams. Don’t hesitate to ask your employees, either. They may have just the insight you need to turn things around.

Don’t let employee disengagement become a company-wide problem. Follow these suggestions to identify and address engagement and commitment issues before they become part of the company culture.

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