6 min read

5 Trigger Points Of Employee Disengagement

Oct 25, 2019 6:30:00 AM


Today we’re sharing insight from guest blogger, Nicole MacLean, Director of Relationship Marketing at Emplify. We hope you enjoy Nicole’s wisdom and perspective.

Employee Disengagement - BlogNobody thrives in a plague or does their best work while fending off lions. And it doesn’t take a catastrophe to throw stress reactions into overdrive. When people don’t trust that they’ll be able to complete their work without surprises — especially those that come with negative consequences — engagement is nearly impossible. 

Being prepared to maintain employee engagement by addressing the difficulties that come with change is mission critical when triggers arise. Change is tough to absorb individually and as a company; keeping tabs on exactly how it affects your team should guide your efforts to maintain engagement through the shift. Without this feedback, you risk adding to your difficulties by setting the stage for disengagement and its costly sidekicks — low productivity, absenteeism, subpar customer service, and turnover.

Leave no trigger unaddressed

The psychological impact of trigger events (those that affect employees’ assessment of their workplace safety) can be overwhelming for some. For others, the impact is lighter. Whether a trigger becomes an issue is highly individual; what knocks one person off her game may be less than a blip for another.

Unaddressed, any trigger will create trouble that works its way throughout teams as productivity drops for those most affected and others must pick up the slack.

Your impulse may be to wait out the worst of the change. Fight that impulse! Working toward better employee engagement during times of upheaval can prevent catastrophe. 

Watch out for these top 5 triggers

Disengagement is costly, from that first set of glazed eyes in a meeting to the ultimate slowdown in productivity that permeates teams and keeps on spreading. Disengaged employees stop contributing feedback and ideas, show a general lack of interest in their work and the progress of the company, and distance themselves from the company culture. And then they leave. 

What starts this process? Often, it’s one of a small but common group of events known to send teams reeling. Wherever change challenges feelings of safety and trust, disengagement is the likely result. 

You can see certain triggers coming. Others are stealthy. Here are five common triggers to prepare for. Being proactive when one of these triggers arises will help you minimize impact and keep employee engagement high.

  1. Merger, Acquisition, or Reorganization. What’s bigger than changing the identity or structure of a company? Not much. A blend of cultures or shifts in leadership roles can, understandably, be a big blow to feelings of trust and safety at work. Role clarity may dissipate as the company shifts. Communication may not keep up with the pace of change, making employees feel uncertain and undervalued. The list of dangers certainly doesn’t stop there. Too bad, because those same employees struggling to adjust were a valuable part of the deal that’s distracting them — and causing disengagement that will ultimately send them out the door.

  2. Leadership Change. Even the best-planned changes in leadership can cause companywide consternation. Because most employees have little or no input regarding leadership changes, they’re in a reactive posture that can feel helpless and uncertain. Any leadership change brings with it a cascade of smaller changes, meaning it can seem like there’s no end in sight. Without a plan for maintaining employee engagement while the company adjusts, the culture takes a hit, and other signs of disengagement begin to pile up. 

  3. Falling Short of Company Goals or Lacking Strategy. Meaning is important for motivation, productivity, and engagement. When efforts don’t seem to be paying off or when teams lack direction, employees tend to lose the sense of why their work matters. Missed benchmarks can happen for a variety of reasons, not all of which are within teams’ control, and all of them knock the wind out of the collective sails. Same with strategy — if you don’t know whether you’re going forward, backward, or sideways, what’s the point in moving? Might as well stand still (and look for another job). You simply can’t expect anyone to stay engaged when they can’t see what they’re working for and what it means.

  4. High Turnover. If an exodus seems to be underway, not only are daily responsibilities ratcheted up for those who remain, resentment rises toward the leaders who created the conditions. Employees bearing the burden of unfilled positions generally aren’t thrilled for the extra responsibility, and it won’t be long before they feel their best option is to follow their former colleagues out the door. Overwork, crumbling culture, lack of results, and leadership — these engagement-killers work fast.

  5. HR Overwhelm. When the HR team is inundated, the whole company feels the effects. Hiring, training, managing benefits, and the gazillion other details of keeping the team functioning require the bandwidth of committed, valued players. Periods of change outside HR can be especially difficult to absorb within. When there’s no time for strategic HR endeavors, the constant game of catch-up leads to stagnation. Further, an unhappy HR department sends a crushing message. When an important component of your engagement team is disengaged, can you really expect the effect not to spread throughout the company? 

Triggers are inevitable; how will you manage through them?

For any time of change and any trigger that throws a team out of whack, measuring engagement and tweaking your engagement strategy can mean the difference between adjusting to change and finding yourself in the throes of a calamity. Feeling heard and valued helps employees stay engaged through change.

What’s The Risk?

Even positive change can negatively impact employee engagement. If you look at managing change as an all-consuming activity that takes precedence over your employee engagement efforts, you might find the change you’re managing having an exponential impact on your business.

At a recent webinar, Emplify CEO and co-founder Santiago Jaramillo shared about getting ahead of culture challenges with real-world examples of companies who’ve relied on employee engagement strategies to make it happen. Watch the recording of the webinar to see data trends related to culture challenges and find out how to create a personal engagement action summary to help brace your organization for the inevitable ups and downs.

Watch the webinar here, or download the webinar deck here.


This content was written and shared by guest blogger Nicole MacLean. 

Nicole MacLean_Headshot_FinalNicole is the Director of Relationship Marketing at Emplify where she leads the company’s partnership and event channels. Strategically minded and creatively inclined, she leads a dynamic team focused on attaining and growing new partner and customer relationships through meaningful brand experiences. Nicole has built her career around a passion for employee engagement, and is also an advocate for gender equality in the workplace.

Connect with Nicole via LinkedIn and Twitter. Connect with Emplify via their websiteLinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.     

Topics: Executive

Written by Gibson

Gibson is a team of risk management and employee benefits professionals with a passion for helping leaders look beyond what others see and get to the proactive side of insurance. As an employee-owned company, Gibson is driven by close relationships with their clients, employees, and the communities they serve. The first Gibson office opened in 1933 in Northern Indiana, and as the company’s reach grew, so did their team. Today, Gibson serves clients across the country from offices in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Utah.