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By Tahlia Cummings

The start of a new job is exciting. It’s the beginning of a new adventure, where you meet different people, learn challenging skills, and apply your talents to help your new company succeed. That energy typically remains as employees enter their sweet spot: no longer the team rookie and increasingly recognized for their expertise in their day-to-day activities. But what happens if what was once stimulating becomes mundane and tedious?

Illustration of a woman working at a computerAccording to a recent Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of the American workforce was not engaged, showing lack of enthusiasm for their work and their workplace. Engagement for managerial, professional, and office-based support positions decreased over the previous year, with the millennial generation being the least engaged. Many workers are discovering the opportunities once desired in college may not be available upon graduation, or that additional work experience is required for those positions they had their hearts set on.

Regardless of the generation or industry, the first step in dealing with a disengaged employee is to recognize the signs. While some individuals are normally less vocal, look for those who show a decline in idea sharing or communication during meetings and other team activities. When employees feel as though their work is not as satisfying, they are less likely to engage during the normal workday.

Also, keep an eye out for employees who exhibit a lack of interest, but still complete tasks on time with a moderate level of quality. These employees may continue to perform because of strong work ethic, but do not enjoy the work or feel challenged.

Disengaged employees are often abusers of time, showing up late to work, taking additional breaks, or consistently distracting other employees. When you notice any of these signs, address the issue as soon as possible and see if you can re-engage your employee. Some may have already reached the point of no return, but for others, try the following:

  • Create a culture of opportunity. Encourage employees to create work that satisfies their thirst to be a contributor, goes beyond what has been asked, and applies their skills to their assignments.
  • Set measurable goals and track them. Work together on establishing additional performance objectives. Discuss expectations and provide support throughout the process.
  • Play to an employee’s strength. While it’s key to stretch an employee and push them into new challenges, also give them tasks that align with their best skills to increase their confidence.
  • Establish frequent touch points. Don’t wait until the annual review or end of the performance year to discuss the employee’s role on the team. Meet regularly to review work products and keep the momentum going.
  • Host team-building sessions. Find ways to improve team morale with engaging activities that can be applied to real-life scenarios.
  • Share the organization’s vision. Make a conscious effort to include employees in the big picture when possible. Keeping them in the loop keeps them connected to the organization.
  • Be an inspiring leader. If you aren’t inspired by your job, your employees won’t be either. Remember you are the example … and you are being watched.

Keep in mind that engagement is a two-way street. While you should be willing to support disengaged employees, the responsibility doesn’t solely reside with leadership. Employees should, and often do, take responsibility to stay engaged. It is when they falter that prompt action on your part can restore their passion and put them back in that productive and engaged sweet spot.