How to Deal with Disengaged Employees

Figuring out what to do when it’s your responsibility to deal with disengaged employees can be a bit of a problem for some managers.

It’s no laughing matter, nor a small one when an employee isn’t being engaged when they’re at work. For an employer, however, to deal with disengaged employees can be challenging.

Back when I still worked a part-time job at a supermarket, I was a frequent day dreamer. I worked in the fruit and veg section, and found myself slipping in and out of thought. In hindsight, despite the lack of perceived importance in comparison to professional jobs, managers dealt with disengaged employees regularly.

So we’ve compiled a list of a few ways a manager can deal with disengaged employees.

Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it.

– Timothy R. Clark –


Notice the problem, while staying cool

The first step, deal with disengaged employees is to become aware of the problem. To be aware of it doesn’t require direct communication or action. Become aware that there is a problem, stay calm and then proceed to deal with it.

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Engage in conversation, cut the small talk but show concern

It’s important to speak to the employee who you believe to be disengaged, just do it discretely and one on one. Exchange pleasantries, mostly avoid small talk, it’s rarely helpful. Small talk allows one another to not fully address the issue, but instead dance around it.

Show you’re concerned, just try not to assume anything. It’s possible they’re just having an off day. Still, ask them if everything is alright and then let them do the speaking.

Find out what they actually want

If you can do this through the conversation then that’s great. If not, then ask them what they really want out of their work and other aspects of their life. Take into consideration the issue they’re having. Then ask them “if the problem were to disappear tomorrow, would everything be alright”?

By asking this, you can gain a better understanding of the situation and the possibility of their future within the organisation. This isn’t a bad thing. If you feel their days are potentially numbered within your company, that’s ok. Sometimes people just need a move and you can help them with it in a healthy way.


How to Deal with Disengaged Employees



Provide some kind of action

To deal with disengaged employees, if you feel you can help, then do it. If you can help them get back into the swing of things, do it. If you need to suggest some time off, a day off, someone to talk to or anything else.

Do it. Do what you can.

Support them

Whatever their decision, support them. Just let them know that you’re there if they need you again. Often people just need someone to speak to or bounce words and ideas off of. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s your job to help them and support them in a healthy way. Depending on the situation.

Send them a report of the conversation

Take notes of the conversation. Ensure to contain a summary of the conversation, an action plan and any consequences of failing to meet the action plan. This let’s your employees know that you’re hearing them and taking it seriously. To get them reengaged and productive again, this must happen.

Report back after this process

After you’ve completed these steps, check in every now and again. This doesn’t always mean to speak to them, although it can. It could mean looking over their work, walking past or watching from a far.

What you want is your employees being happy and reengaged at work. You can suggest ways to improve if more serious queries arise.

In Summary

Throughout the working world, there can be inherent obstacles in which a manager, business owner or supervisor may have to deal with. So we’ve compiled a brief list on how to deal with employee disengagement from a managerial point of view. Just remember, that not all employees are the same when dealing with disengagement. So in essence, just speak to them.

In doing this, you’ll find out exactly what’s going on, giving you direction for you both to move forward in whatever way works in your specific case.

Lauren Clarke

Lauren Clarke

Lauren writes for 6Q and a number of other blogs from her home office in Australia. She spends her time writing, reading and changing US to International English on many articles that she edits.