<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://dc.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=406649&amp;fmt=gif">

How to Overcome Employee Disengagement With These 9 Proven Strategies

Luke Kreitner
9/19/23 10:00 AM

When it comes to disengaged employees, taking preventive measures is more effective than dealing with the issue later. While it's important to try and re-engage disengaged employees, there is a risk of facing difficulties in the process. When individuals lose interest in their work or have lost trust in the organization, it can be challenging to regain their engagement.

Instead of waiting for disengagement to occur, it is beneficial to focus on identifying any potential problems within the company or its culture that could cause employees to become disengaged in the first place. By addressing these issues, you have a better chance of keeping your employees motivated, satisfied, and invested in the company.

In this post, we will explore the common reasons for low employee engagement and discuss how people leaders can effectively address them.

What causes employee disengagement, and what steps can people leaders take to help? 

Disengagement can result from various circumstances, some of which are within the company's control.

Certain decisions and actions taken by the company and its leadership may contribute to employee disengagement, while others may result from individual relationships with colleagues or managers.

Furthermore, low employee engagement may be influenced by external factors, whether in an individual's personal life or within society as a whole.

While it may not be possible to prevent all these problems, as a people leader, you can implement processes, supports, and policies that reduce the likelihood of their occurrence. Even when challenges arise, there are actions you can take to support your employees and leaders, effectively limiting the impact on engagement and job satisfaction.


  • Responsibility Changes 

One of the most common causes of employee disengagement is changes in responsibilities. While employees initially accept their positions based on the roles outlined in their job descriptions, organizational needs can evolve over time. Consequently, an employee's responsibilities and roles may need to be redefined to align with the company's evolution. However, this can lead to dissatisfaction if employees find themselves outside their comfort zone, are forced to shelve projects they were passionate about, or work on tasks they don't enjoy or excel at.

To address such issues, it's crucial to have effective hiring and training strategies in place. Leaders and managers should clearly define the qualities they're seeking in potential employees and focus on long-term goals, rather than immediate needs. This allows for hiring individuals who are well-suited for their roles and adaptable in the future.

While optimal hiring processes can minimize the likelihood of role changes, unforeseen circumstances such as leadership changes, employee departures, or market conditions can still necessitate modifications in employees' responsibilities. When this occurs, it is important to be proactive in addressing the situation with the employees. Engage them in a discussion to understand their comfort level with the new responsibilities and encourage them to share any concerns or challenges they may have.

To effectively address employee dissatisfaction with the change, it is recommended to collaborate with their manager to explore potential solutions that can accommodate both parties. If a satisfactory resolution cannot be reached, it is important to engage in open and direct communication with the employee, clearly articulating the reasons for the necessary changes.

In certain situations, the employee may opt to pursue alternative career opportunities, which can ultimately be beneficial for all involved. It is crucial to handle the situation openly and transparently to ensure the employee departs on positive terms.


  • Leadership Changes

Changes in leadership can significantly impact employee engagement. According to Gallup, managers can cause up to 70% of variances in engagement levels. When there are changes in leadership, employees may experience shifts in responsibilities, priorities, and management approaches. This sudden change can be disconcerting, especially if employees are attached to their previous managers. They might find projects they were enthusiastic about being dropped, roles being restructured, or difficulty in adapting to the new leader's style. These changes can lead to disillusionment among employees, affecting their job satisfaction.

To mitigate the impact of leadership changes on employee engagement, HR professionals can play a crucial role. It is important for the company to have a clear understanding of the desired qualities and values of leaders. While differing personalities and management styles can coexist, all leaders should align with the organization's core values and culture. This alignment can help ensure that employees do not become disillusioned with new leaders.

Effective change management is another key aspect. When bringing in external leaders, it's essential to provide them with comprehensive knowledge of the company culture and the inner workings of their respective departments. For internal promotions, offering training programs, especially for first-time managers, can facilitate a smooth transition. Taking these steps will contribute to reducing any potential unrest arising from leadership changes.


  • Lack of Ownership

Employees greatly benefit from having guidance, direction, and support from their leaders. However, it is equally important for them to feel trusted and have a sense of ownership over their work.

When employees feel empowered in their roles, they tend to approach their tasks with more energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. They are also more likely to take risks in finding innovative solutions to problems.

Conversely, treating employees as if they constantly need supervision can have detrimental effects. Micromanagement is often a leading cause of employee disengagement. Instead of bringing their own initiative and judgment to their work, employees who lack freedom tend to do only what they are asked, without going above and beyond.

A sense of lack of ownership over their work is usually a result of suboptimal management. It is important to note that this is not usually intentional on the part of managers. In many cases, managers provide a lot of guidance to ensure their team's comfort and readiness in their roles. However, this level of careful guidance can limit employees' ability to make their own decisions and truly take ownership.

Managers may also face pressure to deliver results, which can further restrict the freedom they give to their teams.

From an HR perspective, the best approach to addressing this issue is to train managers in empowering their teams. It is crucial to ensure that all managers align their leadership approach with the company's philosophy.


  • Excessive Workloads

Excessive workloads have the potential to transform highly engaged employees into disengaged ones. An unfortunate mistake made by leaders is to take their exceptional performance for granted and burden them with an unfair share of tasks.

Interestingly, engaged employees often take on the additional workload willingly, only to later experience burnout due to underestimating their own limitations.

Here's what you can do to help: aim to reduce their workload. While it may sound simplistic, if you suspect employee workloads are becoming unmanageable, it is crucial to communicate with managers and explore ways to alleviate their burden.

This could involve reassessing your staffing requirements, adjusting expectations, prioritizing projects, or encouraging staff members to delegate tasks.

Anticipate some resistance from managers and even employees themselves. Convincing dedicated team members to pace themselves and postpone certain tasks can be challenging, especially when there is a lot to be accomplished.

However, it is essential to prioritize and address the issue in order to maintain a healthy work environment. Overworking not only leads to disengagement but also contributes to burnout and other physical and mental health problems. Employees must prioritize self-care before they can effectively contribute to their work responsibilities.


  • Market Hurdles

Market challenges can pose significant hurdles, especially during a tough economic climate. Employees may experience demotivation as they strive to achieve results in such conditions, even when they possess talent and dedication. For instance, a diligent sales team's efforts to secure clients may yield minimal success if there is a lack of demand for their product. This can be discouraging, particularly when combined with uncertainties surrounding the company's survival and employees' job security.

During challenging times, it is crucial for employers to avoid the mistake of adopting a tough approach. Simply expecting employees to intensify their efforts and commitment to the company can backfire. Instead, motivating employees requires providing reassurance and instilling a sense of reward for their dedication. When employees perceive that their hard work will be acknowledged and valued, they are more likely to remain loyal and committed.

Transparency and open communication from senior leadership are vital in inspiring trust and confidence among the team. By sharing the company's situation and strategies, leaders can alleviate any unwarranted concerns and foster a shared understanding of the business challenges at hand. This approach encourages employees to stay engaged and motivated, enabling them to contribute their utmost to achieving the desired results.


  • Larger Organizational Issues

Larger organizational issues are an important factor to consider in the current landscape. Companies facing difficult situations may encounter challenges within their internal structure that can significantly impact employee productivity and satisfaction. Staffing issues, budget cuts, or problems related to organizational hierarchy or internal politics can all contribute to decreased morale and disengagement.

To help mitigate these challenges, it is crucial for leaders to be prepared and proactive. Implementing crisis communication plans, establishing policies to manage conflicts, and having long-term succession plans for key roles are some effective strategies. Being well-prepared for potential crises allows for better handling of unexpected situations, which in turn instills confidence in the company among employees.

By addressing larger organizational issues with transparency, accountability, and decisiveness, leaders have the opportunity to strengthen the confidence and loyalty of their employees rather than undermine them.


  • Lack Of Opportunities

A lack of growth opportunities can lead to employee disengagement, as individuals feel their job is a dead end. It is important for companies to offer not only promotions or pay raises but also support for learning, skill development, and involvement in new projects. By providing these opportunities, employees feel challenged and can envision a future within the organization.

To address this issue, people leaders can make a significant impact. They can take the lead in initiatives such as creating learning and development plans, establishing collaborative career paths with employees, and encouraging managers to delegate new responsibilities. It is crucial to recognize that advancement does not solely mean becoming a manager or supervisor, as not everyone may desire or be suited for these roles. Offering alternative paths for growth ensures that valuable individual contributors are retained.


  • Lack Of Appreciation 

Lack of appreciation is a significant factor contributing to employee disengagement, with 43% of individuals attributing it as their main reason for leaving a job. When employees perceive that their efforts are not acknowledged by leadership and colleagues, they gradually lose motivation and may disengage or eventually resign from the company.

To address this issue, it is crucial to ensure that employees feel recognized and valued for their contributions. Consider implementing a recognition program, such as Rewardian, or explore other methods to display appreciation. Regularly conducting engagement or pulse surveys can help monitor the effectiveness of recognition efforts. Include questions in these surveys to assess employees' perception of recognition and track the results over time to identify any decline in scores.


  • Personal Issues

Employee disengagement can sometimes stem from personal issues unrelated to the company. These issues can range from mental health concerns, family problems, or even personal responsibilities such as planning a wedding or moving house. When employees have other demanding aspects of their lives, it becomes challenging for them to fully engage in their work.

To support your employees, it's essential to provide as much assistance as possible. Offering flexible work arrangements, health and wellness plans, parental leave policies, and other benefits can greatly contribute to their peace of mind. By addressing these personal aspects, employees can approach work with full engagement and give their best effort.



Various factors can contribute to low employee engagement. It's important to note that this list is not exhaustive, as the causes of employee disengagement can vary depending on the unique circumstances of an organization and the individual personalities involved. It's possible that any issues experienced may stem from entirely different or unexpected sources.

Understanding the specific root causes of disengagement within your organization requires active listening to your employees and comprehending their motivations. It is also crucial to courageously assess your company's culture and practices, without avoiding difficult conversations or proposing radical changes when necessary. As a people leader, it is your responsibility to continuously improve your company. Although it may not always be easy, the efforts will prove worthwhile in the long run.

Subscribe by Email