Causes of Employee Disengagement

11 Causes of Employee Disengagement & How to Overcome Them

Michael CameronEmployee Engagement, HR Professionals, Performance Culture


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Causes of Employee Disengagement


11 Causes of Employee Disengagement & How to Overcome Them


The Cost of Employee Disengagement

Here’s a statistic for you: employee disengagement costs companies 450-550 billion dollars per year. Clearly, it is in a company’s best interest to ensure their team is engaged with their work. 

While there are many causes of employee disengagement, there are an equal number of solutions to overcome it. Let’s take a look at them. 


Cause 1: Poor management

One of the larger causes of employee disengagement is poor management. In fact, a report reveals that approximately 75% of employees quit because of their manager or supervisor. Poor management can include not giving or receiving constructive feedback, a lack of one-on-one time, and a lack of recognition. The expression: ‘People don’t leave organizations, they leave leaders’ is a very accurate statement. 

Solution: While it isn’t as easy as saying “be a better manager”, that is essentially what it comes down to. To have engaged employees, a manager must be engaged as well. Scheduling one-on-ones is crucial, as it presents an opportunity to update the employee on how they’re doing, as well as receiving any feedback they have to offer. It also can be a time to recognize their efforts, which is important, because another cause of employee disengagement is… 


Cause 2: Lack of recognition

A lack of recognition can cause employees to feel as if their work is meaningless, or give them the mindset of “why even try?”.  

Solution: By no means do you need to congratulate an employee every time they complete a bit of work, but setting up a weekly, or even a monthly time to recognize the accomplishments of your employees will go a long way towards ensuring they remain engaged.   


Cause 3: Poor communication

Communication can’t just happen during one-on-ones or meetings, it needs to be ongoing in order for employees to keep up to speed. A large contributor to employee disengagement is when they are unsure of how they are performing in their role, or worse, what their role is. 

Solution: Implement KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). These performance-measuring metrics help set out a roadmap for the direction the employee should be heading, and set up clear goals that will let them know they are succeeding. 


Cause 4: Lack of career growth

When employees feel like they are stuck in their job, they tend to disengage. For go-getters, the lack of professional growth opportunities is likely to set them to “go get” a new job.  

Solution: Give employees an opportunity to voice where they would like to go within the company – one-on-ones are good for this. It is also helpful to have mentorship and training opportunities available to them. Which leads to the next cause of employee disengagement: 


Cause 5: Lack of training

Not only does lack of training a disservice to the employee ultimately preventing them from doing their job properly, but it can demonstrate a lack of trust in the employee. They are left to assume that they are not worth the employer’s investment. Also, being unable to learn new skills and processes makes it much harder for an employee to advance. 

Solution: As mentioned above, make resources for your employees available. These could be in the form of mentorships with more experienced employees, or training programs that allow them to learn new skills required to advance within the company. An individual development plan is ideal to customize the learning path for the employee. 


Cause 6: Lack of tools and resources

Similar to lack of training, lack of tools and resources can lead to feelings of frustration, which is a major contributor to employee disengagement.  

Solution: Every employee wants to do their job right. While they don’t necessarily need the most up-to-date, cutting-edge technology, ensuring they have the programs (and training in those programs) to complete their tasks is very important. Also, in the event that an employee doesn’t know how to do something related to their job, they should know where to look or who to ask to get the proper help.


Cause 7: Low pay

This is a fairly obvious reason for employee disengagement. Some hold the mantra that minimum wage equals minimum work – if an employee doesn’t feel like they are being aptly compensated for their time, their work quality will certainly suffer. 

Solution: The solution here isn’t to simply pay higher wages to everyone. More so, it is it to have a structure in place – that employees are aware of – pertaining to when people will get raises. Also, give the employees the freedom to ask for a wage increase based on their work – review these requests and reward those who deserve it. Often a pay-for-performance process that directly links compensation to specific results will drive enthusiasm in one’s work.  If people feel like their work is worth more than you’re giving them, they will seek employment elsewhere. 


Employee Disengagement 2


Cause 8: Not being used for their strengths

While employees should have a working knowledge of most areas of their jobs, they will tend to excel at different things. Employee disengagement can occur when they are being forced to do tasks that utilize skills they are less comfortable with.  

Solutions: One-on-ones are a good place to analyze the strengths of specific employees. Reviews of their accomplishments will serve to highlight where they are particularly apt, and using them in those areas will not only make them more engaged, but will be profitable for your company. 


Cause 9: Excessive workload volume

While some employees may be motivated by mountains of work and strive to complete it all, many will begin to feel hopeless. Having too much work to do, and not enough time or the proper resources to complete it is a big factor in employee disengagement. 

Solution: Ensure your task delegation is reasonable to attain and that you attach fair expectations to delivery. This will be easier if you are familiar with employees’ strengths – giving them work they are good at will more likely engage them further and for longer periods of time. Also, give everyone the opportunity to step up and take on more work if they want to and are able to. 


Cause 10: Lack of challenging work

This one is the opposite of excessive workload. If an employee has too few things to work on combined with a low challenge, they may either finish it very quickly or submit sub-par quality.  Ethier way, these are indicators of being bored. 

Solution: Just as above, give employees the option to take on more. If a particular employee is becoming disengaged due to their work not being challenging enough, assign them the more difficult tasks when you are delegating them. Following up in one-on-ones can help you assess what sort of work would engage them, as well. 


Cause 11: Lack of collaboration

Many employees like a team-based culture, and the camaraderie that it brings. Forcing employees to work in isolation can lead to employee disengagement. 

Solution: Learn how to employ effective collaboration. Giving your employees the opportunity to work with like-minded people on projects that interest them all is a good way to keep them engaged. Also, look to encourage cross-boundary relationships that seek collaboration from other teams – assigning specific goals for your employees can easily create this opportunity. 


Overcoming Employee Disengagement

Employee disengagement, while seemingly harmless, can actually be incredibly costly. Employing these tactics will help keep your workers engaged, and thus, your company productive. 

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