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The Champion Forum Podcast

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TCFP225: How To Address (And Prevent) Disengaged Employees

Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Have you ever led a disengaged employee? Disengagement can harm team morale and productivity, but with the right approach, leaders can help reengage their team members. In today’s episode of The Champion Forum Podcast, we’ll talk about managing a disengaged employee in a way that benefits both the employee and the organization.


Sings of Disengagement

  • lack of enthusiasm

  • decreased productivity

  • missed deadlines

  • withdrawal from team activities


Q: What other characteristics have you seen in a disengaged employee? Have you ever been disengaged? What led to you withdrawing from your work/co-workers? What other signs did you have?


How to Handle a Disengaged Employee

Don’t jump to conclusions or assign blame. Approach the situation with empathy and seek to understand the underlying causes by doing the following:


Initiate Open Communication

Don’t wait for your employee to come to you. Initiate a conversation with them. Create a safe space where they can express their concerns, frustrations, or any issues they may be facing. Engage in active listening by asking open-ended questions, empathizing, and validating their feelings.


Identify Root Causes

When you understand the underlying issues contributing to an employee’s disengagement, you can address the problem with the right approach. Factors contributing to employee disengagement may include work-related issues, personal challenges, lack of alignment with their role, or feeling undervalued.


Provide Feedback and Support

Communicate what you are observing, focusing on specific behaviors and outcomes rather than making it personal. Work together to identify areas for improvement and set realistic goals. Recommend appropriate resources, training, or mentorship to help the employee overcome challenges and regain their motivation.


Think beyond their job tasks and find ways to support their career development. Connect what you are asking them to do with a future promotion, new role, or the opportunity to develop new skills. Remember that leaders are focused on not only what the company needs but also the lives of the people they lead. Often, the two go hand in hand.


Q: Do you find it easier to give positive or corrective feedback? Why? Do you balance both types of feedback? Why or why not? What could change if you offered more positive or constructive feedback?


Set Clear Expectations and Provide Autonomy

  1. Clearly define expectations, responsibilities, and performance goals.

  2. Increase your employee’s enthusiasm and sense of ownership by allowing them to have autonomy in achieving those goals.

  3. Create a culture that promotes open dialog and shows employees you care about their opinions and ideas. When you change your approach based on their recommendations, ensure they are given a clear reason why.


Employee engagement is directly correlated with how useful and connected they feel. It is essential that they can provide feedback that will make a difference. Teams that operate under a spirit of collaboration are always more engaged.


Recognize and Celebrate Progress:

According to the Harvard Business Review, 40% of employees say they would put more energy into their work if their boss recognized them more often. As the employee shows improvements and reengages, acknowledge their efforts and celebrate their progress. Recognize their achievements publicly or privately, reinforcing positive behaviors and boosting their self-esteem. Don’t stop there! Make a regular practice of praising your team both publicly and privately to help keep them engaged.


Tap Into Employee Strengths:

Employees want to do their best work. However, according to Gallup, just 40% feel they are in a position to make that happen. Your job is to help your employee’s strengths shine and offer opportunities for lateral moves if there is a role they may be better suited for.


Q: What are your employee’s strengths? How does their current role suit their strengths? Can you modify their role to help those strengths shine more?



Application Activities:

  1. Hire one of our JHE-certified coaches to guide you and your team through the Top Five CliftonStrengs Assessments. You’ll learn how to coach people to know themselves better, form stronger teams, excel in their careers, and increase performance. You will further your development by learning to: understand your team’s talents and use them to reach your goals and overcome obstacles, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities.

  2. Set aside time to refresh (or create!) your employee recognition program. People want to feel valued, and a recognition program helps hold you, as the leader, accountable for celebrating your team’s success. Examples could include bonuses for reaching specific performance goals, an end-of-year dinner with awards for each employee, or simply a weekly spotlight on someone who is going above and beyond.

  3. Great organizations also use employee recognition to promote their core values. During your weekly meeting, call out at least one member of your team who has exemplified one of your core values. Using core values and individual accomplishments will ensure that everyone has a chance to get recognized, even if they are not the best salesmen or if they are new to their role and still learning.

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