According to a Gallup poll, around 85% of employees class themselves as either ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ at work. No wonder employee engagement is a perennial issue.

But what does a ‘disengaged’ employee look like?

Disengagement can take many forms but some of the most common are: doing just enough to get by (if that), not recommending their employer to others, complaining to teammates and avoiding their manager, and making excuses for their mistakes.

What impact do such attitudes and behaviors have on the workplace? Here are three…

1. Mediocre performance

The same Gallup poll put the cost of employees not being actively engaged at $7 trillion in lost productivity. That definitely suggests that greater engagement would translate to better job performance. Which is not to say that a disengaged employee is performing poorly, but they’re unlikely to perform to their full potential (think about it, ‘disengaged’ is just modern business parlance for ‘their heart’s not in it’).


One way to boost performance (and re-engage people) is to pay proper and efficient attention to it which means taking a look at your performance system. Does it help your managers establish clear expectations? Hold people accountable for results? Encourage performance conversations more than once a year? Offer clear rewards for above-and-beyond performance? Do your people feel supported or shackled by it?

The right HRMS can not only be aligned to an effective, modern performance management system but will also prompt the right action at the right time to keep your performance management on track and at the forefront of everyone’s attention.

2. Lack of teamwork

Few would argue that in most industries, good teamwork translates to better performance, for both the individual and the wider team or department. After all, in the never-ending flood of new management models and frameworks, we’ve yet to hear one that says, ‘Split your people up for better results!’

However, the disengaged employee is less likely to support their co-workers, less likely to ask for support, and tend to feel little or no enthusiasm for team activity. If your organizational structure and ways of working depend on cooperation, that kind of disengagement is a problem.


To begin, ensure that your team members are interacting in a way which encourages the creation of genuine connections. Suggestions include:

  • Regular team meetings with a collaborative theme
  • Team lunches – a more relaxed mode of meeting
  • Occasional social events – with activities and venues that will appeal to all

For day-to-day working, many of the latest HRMS packages include collaborative and social communication tools that encourage better communication and help cut across traditional hierarchies.

3. Increased stress

This link goes two ways: stressed employees are more likely to disengage and the disengaged are more likely to be stressed. Stress may result from workload, insufficient resources to get the job done, or a culture that fails to respect employee time.


The aim is to provide a challenging but not unmanageable workload, in an environment that supports the achievement of that workload. Simple in principle. As well as showing some commitment to employee well-being (the beginning of the year is a popular time for introducing employee health initiatives that encourage exercise and better eating), the key is to ask enough but not too much of people. An integrated HRMS that pulls together data on scheduling, resources and performance can assist managers in doing just that; sharing the workload equitably.

This article was contributed by Dave Foxall. Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years and is a regular HRMS World contributor. He writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.