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5 Top Causes of Employee Disengagement

employee disengagement

In 2015, data from Gallup showed that 68% of US employees are unengaged at work, with 50% simply unengaged and another 17% actively disengaged.  However, recent findings from Gallup show that employee engagement is on the rise.  In fact, in March of 2018, Gallup released a new report indicating the percentage of engaged employees in the US is at 34%.  This is the highest level of engagement reported to date.  Additionally, the ratio of engaged employees to disengaged is now 2.6-to-1.

Yet, despite the increase in employee engagement, roughly 53% of workers still fall into the “disengaged” category with 17% reporting that they are “actively disengaged”.  These figures mark an improvement from 2015, but still show employee disengagement is an issue for companies (especially with over half of the workforce falling in the “disengaged” category).  And while it’s easy to imagine that only entry-level employees make up these numbers, that isn’t the case. From the executive level down, disengagement is a problem that hinders projects, weakens morale, and leads to high (and expensive) employee turnover.

Gallup defines engaged employees as employees who are enthusiastic about and committed to their jobs. They support the innovation, growth, and revenue of their companies.

The question, therefore, what are the main causes of employee disengagement and how can companies help employees feel more enthusiastic about and committed to their jobs? Let’s start with the sources of disengagement:

  1. Under/overqualification

When people are put into jobs that they are either under- or over-qualified for, that can create a disconnect between the leader’s expectations and the employee’s abilities. An underqualified employee is likely to feel intense stress. If they don’t receive the guidance and training that they need, they’ll fall behind quickly and will lose any motivation to catch up.

Likewise, over-qualified employees are likely to get bored if they are not quickly moved to a position that better suits their talents. A bored, over-qualified employee can be even less effective than an under-qualified employee in the same position.

  1. Stagnation

If an employee feels like there’s nowhere for them to go within the company, that same boredom will creep in. They’ll simply get through the hours rather than actively contributing, because they won’t see any point in going above and beyond.

  1. Lack of recognition

Similarly, employees whose great work goes unnoticed are unlikely to try as hard the next time around. If an employee gets passed over for promotions and pay raises, they’ll lose their drive and commitment.

  1. Disconnection

Employees who feel disconnected from their boss and/or co-workers are unlikely to feel much dedication to the company. Also, if an employee doesn’t have a good sense of how their job contributes to the bigger picture, they may feel like just another cog in the machine.

  1. Overwork

Employees who have to give too much of their energy and time to work are likely to burn out and move on. Overwork is a serious problem that can contribute to depression and substance abuse.

Disengaged Employees? Do Something About It

If you recognize some or all of these causes of disengagement in your company, do something about it. Start by talking to your employees about their needs, whether through direct meetings or anonymized assessments. Armed with information, you can start to implement changes to hiring practices, company culture, and leadership training that can help your employees re-connect to their work and to each other.

To learn more, consider attending one of Level Up Leadership’s upcoming seminars in Raleigh. Upcoming topics include Optimal Motivation, Management Essentials, and SLII Immersion Experience. Learn more and sign up at

About Joy Ruhmann
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