BUSINESS
01/27/2016 01:59 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2017

5 Traits of a Disengaged Employee and How You Can Turn Them Around

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Improving employee engagement is often at the forefront of every manager's HR solutions list. Disengaged employees often harm a small business's growth, so taking care of the problem as soon as possible is vital to your company's bottom line.

5 Obvious Disengagement Traits

How do you know if employees are engaged, and what can you do about it? Though the list of characteristic traits of disengaged employees could go on and on, here are five major signs to watch for, as well as some ideas to turn these employees' attitudes around.

1. Lack of Enthusiasm
Does it seem like one of your employees simply doesn't care? When she talks about the work she's doing, does she seem enthusiastic or apathetic? If the latter applies, then there's your first sign. Sure, everybody has down days, but if the lack of enthusiasm becomes a regular thing, it's time to make a change.

2. A Complaining Attitude
Employees who are disengaged tend to complain a lot, even about the smallest things. If someone in your office seems to constantly make a big deal out of something as minor as the kind of coffee available, he may be experiencing decreased employee engagement.

3. Independence
Someone always wants to work alone, rather than as part of a team? This could be a sign of disengagement. When an employee stops caring about the success of a company, he or she likely won't feel the need to work with others in that company.

4. Failure to Take Responsibility
Excuse-making is another sign of struggling employee engagement. Those team members who truly want to do well in their jobs and advance their careers will readily admit their faults in order to better themselves.

5. Lack of Initiative
Just doing the basics to get by each day is a major red flag. It shows an employee has no desire to move up or stay with your company--or she doesn't think it's possible--which often leads to disengagement. If you notice someone barely meeting deadlines or only giving input when asked, consider the possibility that she may be in need of encouragement.

How to Improve Employee Engagement

So how can you combat this phenomenon? It's all about communication and appreciation. Be invested in your employees, and they'll be invested in you. Here are a few ideas:

  • Give people inside information. There's no better way to make an employee feel valued than to clue them in on management's goals, challenges, etc.
  • Celebrate personal wins. People want to be acknowledged when they've accomplished something, no matter how small. After all, every tiny victory contributes to your success as a business.
  • Have fun on purpose. Go to lunch with your team members or close early on a Friday afternoon to go on a company-wide outing.

Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive. This article first appeared on the MJ Management Solutions blog.

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