How to Recognize and Fix Poor Engagement

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

A top employee at the illustrious ACME company just packed up her desk. She had been there for nearly a year before leaving to pursue another opportunity. Looking back on the past few months, she was showing subtle signs of disengagement all along.

In her interview, Carolina blew everyone away with excellent answers and professionalism. She excelled on the job — always bringing valuable input to meetings, team projects, and showing overall enthusiasm to be there. But over time, she started exhibiting signs of disengagement.

It’s not uncommon for employee engagement to drop off after the first six months with a company. In fact, Gallup’s 2013 State of The Workplace report, based off of ongoing research conducted 2010 through 2012, shows employee engagement dropping off by 44 percent after six months.

That doesn’t mean your team’s engagement has to suffer. Here are a few warning signs of employee disengagement and some immediately actionable methods for overcoming them:

Sign #1: Waning Participation

As smart as Carolina was, she brought less and less to the table in meetings as time went on.

Eager participation is one of the most visible signs of employee engagement. It shines in those who always go above and beyond  regularly helping with projects outside of their own to-do list for the benefit of their team. Engaged employees feel a sense of purpose in their role, and relish seeing the benefits their work has on others.

You can encourage participation by consistently recognizing and rewarding great work. All Carolina may have needed was reassurance of her mastery over a subject to boost her confidence, and encourage her to share more ideas.

Sign #2: Lacking Gratitude

Although Todd proofread reports for her, and Jim often stayed late to help her finish projects, there was a visible change in the frequency of thanks Carolina expressed to her colleagues. She may have forgotten to say “thank you” due to stress in the moment, but this kind of behavior indicates a growing lack of appreciation and gratitude.

If you recognize gratitude deficit early on, you can change course by encouraging employees to regularly show appreciation for one another. Lead by example to strengthen the foundation of gratitude and appreciation in your company's culture.

Sign #3: Decreased Teamwork

Carolina used to be a team player, and despite the help she continually received from her co-workers, she volunteered her own assistance less and less as time went on.

It’s crucial to illustrate the value in helping others, and reward it consistently. Implementing a system to reward cooperative behavior is easier than you might think. Peer-to-peer recognition harnesses the power of crowdsourcing to efficiently address this need, by allowing employees to recognize and reward their colleagues for their assistance.

In an article he wrote for their home blog, DeSmart’s Piotr Duszynski explains why giving employees the power to recognize each other for deeds  big or small  is such a valuable strategy.

A strong employee recognition strategy and culture of appreciation help improve relationships, inspire participation, and encourage teamwork. You don't have to lose employees to disengagement, now you know what signs to look for and have the tools to ensure it never happens again.

Employee Engagement Handbook

Originally published on March 23, 2015 → Last updated April 1, 2019

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.


Bonusly is a fun, personal employee recognition and rewards program that helps people feel engaged and successful at work. ✨