Detecting Disengagement: 3 Signs Your Employees Are Dissatisfied

Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement
While many companies fail to recognize the warning signs of employee disinterest, managers and senior executives must work to proactively curb dissatisfaction so as to reengage staff and prevent attrition.

From crossed arms and audible sighs to shoulder shrugs and distant stares, we've all learned to identify the telltale signs of discontent. Yet, in many cases, senior-level executives and managers often overlook the common behaviors that indicate their employees' interest and investment may be dwindling.

When it comes to detecting employee disengagement, companies tend to gloss over any emerging issues until they become much bigger problems. While the warning signs are certainly apparent, many don't have the necessary processes in place to assess employee behavior and address dissatisfaction. These leaders focus on overall operations while neglecting to embrace employees on an individual level.

"There are three types of employees: engaged, unengaged, and disengaged," says David Jones, CEO of and Incentive Gift CardLab. "Imagine the company is a canoe with engaged employees rowing to propel the canoe forward. Unengaged employees have their oars in the air, making no effort to propel the company, but also not actively working against it. Disengaged employees have their oars in the water causing drag, actively working against the company's goals. Disengaged employees cause a toxic environment that can bring morale down, causing engaged employees to become dissatisfied with the company or their job."

Not only do the disengaged inflict personal frustration, but they also hinder the success of the company and their fellow workers. According to a recent Gallup poll, actively disengaged employees, who account for 18 percent of the workforce, cost the U.S. between $450 billion and $550 billion annually in lost productivity. Only 41 percent of employees surveyed feel that they know what their company stands for and what makes the brand different from its competitors, and herein lies the root of much discontent.

For many employees just beginning their journey, all is new and exciting. But, as Jeff Ganis, vice president of research at LRA Worldwide Inc., highlights, once the "honeymoon" phase wears off, employees often become disengaged, as they are at their most vulnerable. In many instances, these workers believe that their efforts and suggestions go unnoticed, while others feel their role lacks meaning as they are not sure how their actions impact the overall business. They begin to feel as if nothing they do furthers their personal goals and the objectives of the company, for they are unaware of the mission and vision, causing them to lose interest.

If companies are to proactively curb employee discontent and reengage individuals to prevent attrition, they must hone their ability to detect the most common-and obvious-warning signs among staff:

1.Those who were once eager suddenly seem withdrawn. Though many employees begin their journey with enthusiasm and determination, many may fall to the wayside if they feel their desire to help goes ignored. These employees, who once offered opinions and feedback, will now appear complacent as they begin to regard their input as unwanted or unnecessary. Said staff members will also begin to display lower productivity and an unwillingness to go above and beyond their basic role. This obvious reduction in effort demonstrates their waning interest to perform, typically serving as the first warning sign of disengagement.

2.Fellow coworkers express increased frustration and dissatisfaction. When one or more employees begin to lose interest and allow their performance to fade, their fellow employees suffer alongside them. Disengaged employees can be poison to a group, for they refuse to put forth their best effort and help the greater good. Therefore, the rest of their team or department can no longer rely on them, as they don't care about getting the job done. Companies should pay particular attention if discontent starts to spread, for the harm caused by one could increase disengagement in many. Increased tension, frustration, and conflict are just a few of the telltale signs that one or more dissatisfied employees are bringing down the organization's morale.

3.Customers begin to pinpoint the associate's failure to serve the individual's needs. "As disengaged employees become unwilling to go above and beyond, and to put in the necessary effort to make customers satisfied, the overall customer experience will be affected," says Shane Green, president of Shane Green Enterprises. "The negative attitude of disengaged employees will turn off customers and become the thing customers remember most. This will then permeate the brand's reputation, especially in the online, social space." Ganis notes that, when employees disengage, they're less likely to listen to customers and care about what they need, leaving them feeling abandoned. If customers begin to voice their dissatisfaction, then the problem has truly escalated to the point of immediate action.

Collaborative Environments Boost Employee Engagement and Morale

Once companies understand the warning signs of disengagement, them must then take action to reengage those who are willing and implement measures that will prevent future discontent. According to Jeannie Walters, chief customer experience investigator and founder of 360Connext, listening to employees stands at the heart of employee engagement. Employees have great ideas to share and insights to offer, as they often see customer issues before top leadership does. Staff members want to see that their input and contributions have meaning within the context of the overall organization. Engagement is really about helping each individual see how what they do each day is connected to the company's overarching mission and how their efforts support these goals.

"Most problems businesses face can be solved by fixing employee engagement," Jones emphasizes. "Speed of service, customer reviews, employee retention, employee morale, store cleanliness, and other goals are all tied to employee engagement. As more employees become engaged, productivity improves because more employees are working toward the company goal."

Once companies have established a formal process for listening and putting feedback into action, the organization can then begin to have earnest conversations about performance and any issues that may arise among the individual's peers and customers. As Green emphasizes, companies must adopt a collaborative environment that allows staff from all levels of the company to have their say. Thus, this willingness to listen will allow leaders to understand the employee's perspective and lay the groundwork for strong, symbiotic relationships.

Madison Square Garden Drives Employee Engagement from the Top Down

While Madison Square Garden (MSG) may be the world's most famous arena, the entertainment venue also prides itself on offering employees an environment that takes the notion of engagement very seriously. MSG has implemented a program that drives employee engagement and service levels from the executive tier down to frontline staffers. The company's service mission, vision, and values-which employees actively helped create-along with related training, set overall expectations, providing employees with an effective foundation for understanding their place within the organization and how their role aligns with the company's goals. MSG also offers employees a variety of outlets for two-way communication, such as informal surveys and roundtable meetings, to facilitate discussions and promote collaborative problem-solving.

By creating an infrastructure that revolves around employee engagement and MSG's persistence to maintain a consistent message, the organization has managed to win back numerous disengaged employees, for staff members are invested in every new strategy. Often times, employees disengage quicker when new programs are perceived to be trendy or change never comes to fruition. However, by constantly following through with the promises made by senior leaders, the organization demonstrates its dedication to incorporating employee feedback and creating an inclusive atmosphere that values every area of the establishment. MSG understands that emphasizing clear and consistent communication will encourage increased and continued engagement as employees work to fulfill their roles and provide exceptional customer service.