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[Radio] Part 1: Staff Engagement - The Disengaged Employee

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

Part 1 - Introduction and the Disengaged Employee

With so many businesses finally realizing the importance of having positive employee experiences, numerous leaders are falling back to proven strategies to boost employee motivation. One such strategy is the groundbreaking Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. At the time of release, in 1943, this formula was an instant success as it presented an in-depth view of human psychology and motivation, emphasizing that a person’s behavior is often a response to a variety of needs.

When applying this strategy in your quest to boost employee engagement, Maslow stresses the need to look beyond what the employee is saying to really understand what their needs are.

You might be wondering how a 1943 strategy applies to engagement in modern times. Well, the thing is, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be applied to almost any industry, more so employee engagement. According to Abraham Maslow, human needs are divided into 5 levels or stages: self-actualization, importance, belonging, security, and finally, survival. The needs are arranged in a hierarchy such that the lowest ranking employee is the least engaged, and the highest-ranking employee is in love with the workplace. Most leaders fail to understand that salary is only one part of the equation and that giving an employee a raise will not fix employee engagement. Different needs require different approaches, and different tools can be used to boost workforce engagement.

So why is engagement a crucial cog in determining a company’s chance of success?

Employees are the drivers of your company’s goals and targets. According to a 2016 Gallup survey, companies in the top quarter for employee engagement outperform their competitors in the lowest categories with 21% higher profitability, 20% higher productivity, and up to 59% lower turnover. With such high numbers at play, learning what motivates your workforce is such an integral part of your business. While determining the motivating factor behind employee engagement can be quite a daunting task, the good news is that you’ll witness an improvement in terms of employee productivity once these needs are met.

Disengaged Employee

To start today’s discussion, we take a look at the most disengaged employee who’s typically surviving at the workplace. The ideal employee journey kicks off with hopeful and positive expectations for both the employer and the employee. However, you probably already know that not everything works out for the best. Some employees wander off the designated path and end up in the dreaded world of disengagement.

A disengaged employee is not fully committed to the company, the team’s success, lacks enthusiasm, and does not make any extra effort to improve the business. For the most part, managers and HR leaders view engagement as a minor aspect of employee productivity as long as all the tasks are being handled. They fail to understand that even though the deadlines are being met and tasks are being accomplished, at the end of the day, a disengaged employee is the root of all toxic work environments.

To put this into perspective, disengaged employees are like a virus that can spread throughout your organization. HR specialists refer to them as viruses because, just like a cold, it starts with a cough, then a different person has a sore throat, and before you know it, everybody in the office has a nasty cold.

Since you obviously want to contain the outbreak, what are the tell-tale signs that an employee is disengaged?

The Employee Is Always Looking Forward To The End of The Day

The end of the day is usually at the back of the mind of almost every employee. Similarly, a disengaged employee is actively waiting for the end of the day, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Instead of actively pursuing meaningful office activities, they waste time anticipating the end of the day. A usual sign of this is that the employee is usually the last to arrive and the first to leave.

Productivity Downturn

The first thing you’ll notice from disengaged employees is that every task assigned to them is not received with enthusiasm; rather, tasks are seen as a burden. If you notice a once hardworking employee is no longer producing the same high-quality output they used to, it’s likely that the employee is no longer engaged. Not only will the amount of work done reduce, but the quality produced will also take a hit. This is because a disengaged employee is not concerned with the tasks at hand and, therefore, less likely to put in the effort. However, a downturn in productivity should not primarily be associated with disengagement as several different factors can influence a downturn in productivity.

They are Just After The Paycheck

As earlier mentioned, the paycheck is a crucial element of employee engagement. But a disengaged employee is only after the paycheck and nothing else. He or she only wants to get paid and not do the work. You’ll find them complaining about not being paid on time or that the paycheck does not match their input. When asked what gets them out of bed every morning, they usually say they just want to get paid.

Dissatisfied with the Job

Engaged employees are always on the hunt for new opportunities and push themselves forward to learn more and achieve career success. In turn, this brings success to the company as they are more invested in the company’s growth. When you notice an engaged employee who has been a top performer in the past passing up responsibilities that are great for career progression or which they are good at, that’s the red flag you should watch out for. This may also be a sign that the employee wants to leave since a team member with long-term goals and less likely to be dissatisfied with his job.

[Radio] Part 2: Staff Engagement - Security and Belonging Here

[Radio] Part 3: Staff Engagement - The Engaged and The Highly Engaged Here [Radio] Part 4: Staff Engagement - The Solutions Here


Ally Nitschke is a Speaker, Leadership Strategist and Courageous Conversations specialist, She has been working as a leader and with leaders for over 15 years. She is on a mission to change the way we communicate at work, to lean into those uncomfortable conversations and lead with courage. Ally delivers Courageous Leader programs, Courageous Conversations workshops, Coaching and Keynotes. To inquire about working with you or your organisation please contact us here.


If you are interested in having Ally speak at an upcoming event or would like more information about Ally's Programs please book a call.

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