Definition of Disengaged Employees

by Frances Burks; Updated September 26, 2017
Disengaged employees don't exceed their basic duties or suggest workplace improvements.

It may be difficult for employers to pinpoint disengaged employees because they don't necessarily create problems in the workplace, and they generally do their jobs. Still, disengagement can spread throughout the workplace as even talented employees find their work uninteresting and see no room for advancing their careers.

Disengagement

Disengaged employees don’t have an emotional commitment to their work or their place of employment, according to Entec Corporation, which has conducted employee surveys since 1966. Entec emphasizes that disengaged employees aren't necessarily bad employees, but they just do what's necessary to get their jobs done. They typically don't take part in offering suggestions for improving the workplace. Entec indicates that disengaged employees usually don't stay at work late if it's not required, and they don't give their jobs much thought after they finish a workday.

Active Disengagement

Problems may develop throughout the workplace when companies don't deal with actively disengaged employees. These are the workers who undermine their jobs and employers. Actively disengaged employees can sink employee morale and performance. In such cases, employers should try to determine what's behind active disengagement to prevent if from getting out of control. The problem may be that some employees are unhappy because their jobs aren’t suitable for their skills or they're dealing with managers who have poor leadership skills.

High-Potential Employees

A company’s most-talented workers may define themselves as disengaged. A 2010 survey by the Corporate Executive Board research company found that more high-potential employees are looking for new jobs because they have become disengaged in their current positions. The CEB found that 25 percent of high-potential workers planned to leave their jobs in 2010, when only 10 percent of those employees intended to find new jobs in a CEB 2006 survey. The board's employee engagement research included a survey of 20,000 high-potential employees at more than 100 businesses worldwide.

Bolstering Engagement

The CEB survey also found that about one in five high-potential employees saw themselves as "highly" disengaged workers in 2010, which marked a three-fold increase from other survey results three years earlier. The CEB chose high-potential survey respondents based on employers' assessments of their workers. Employers need to spend more time emphasizing leadership opportunities so that employees motivated by taking on leadership roles remain engaged in their work. Potential company leaders tend to become disengaged without interesting work, recognition from their employers and career development opportunities.

About the Author

Frances Burks has more than 15 years experience in writing positions, including work as a news analyst for executive briefings and as an Associated Press journalist. Burks has banking and business development experience, and she has written numerous articles on consumer issues and home improvement. Burks holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Michigan.

Photo Credits

  • Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images