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5 Signs of A Disengaged Employee



I love the definition of employee engagement that I read in this recent TalentCulture post. It’s succinct and comprehensive:

When employees are engaged, they adopt the vision, values, and purpose of the organization they work for. They become passionate contributors, innovating problem solvers, and stunning colleagues. 

But what does it mean to be a disengaged employee? Well, according to that same post, disengaged employees are “not poised to put in extra effort for success. They don’t like going to work most days. They’re unlikely to recommend the products of, or employment with, their employer.”

Laziness, apathy, and dissidence are merely symptoms of bigger problems. And by the time many of those symptoms surface, remediation might be impossible.

Update: Check out the infographic below for more insights into the causes of disengagement and how you can motivate your employees to be more engaged. 

2 Types of Disengagement

According to Gallup, employee engagement isn’t binary. There are actually three classifications; engagednot engaged, and actively disengaged. Engaged employees are easy to spot as are the miserable, dissident, counter-culture folks who are actively disengaged.  The silent majority who are not engagedmake up over 50% of the American workforce, and are adept at blending in with the rest of the herd.

Sure some things are obvious – absenteeism, low energy, bad attitude, frequent use of social media, lack of enthusiasm…but few disengaged employees start out by staging a coup from their cubicle.  What are the early signs of employee disengagement?

1) No Initiative

Poor work product is a reliable barometer for disengagement, but good work might be a red herring. An employee may feel disconnected from your organization but might still perform because of a personal work ethic. Or maybe their job is too easy and they are not being challenged. Don’t be fooled that everything is okay simply because the person is producing. In fact, the lack of challenge that manifests as quality work may be what is behind the disengagement.

 Instead, look how motivated the person is in a different context. Stage a voluntary hack-day for the company. Make it fun and offer great prizes. Does your top performer choose to not participate? If there are no other matters taking up their time, you may have a disengaged employee.

2) Unhealthy Activities

How often does an employee go to the break room for a coffee or snack? How often do they head out for a cigarette? Of course your employee may just be hungry, tired, or addicted to nicotine, but sometimes people over-indulge in unhealthy behaviors to fill a void in their personal or professional lives. People who are truly motivated by purpose often derive fulfillment simply by working diligently at their desks. They may even have to be reminded by a grumbling belly that they haven’t eaten lunch yet.

3) Silence

Ok maybe you just have an introvert on your hands. Some people feel their batteries recharge when they have their own space. But when the entire company or specific teams are experiencing a win and a select few show no excitement or celebration, that’s an engagement issue.

4) Lack of Learning

When is the last time that quiet employee shared an article of interest about your company, marketplace trends, or interesting research dealing with their role? When is the last time they shared anything at all? Curiosity is a good sign that an employee cares about the bigger picture. They want to learn and grow in their role and share that with others. When you encourage learning and growth as a company value and employees don’t share your enthusiasm, it’s time to take a closer look.

5) Wasted Weekends

When we aren’t happy or we’re uninspired at work, those emotions have a way of infiltrating all aspects of our lives. Are people spending their weekends sleeping most of the time, or are they pursuing a personal passion?

Winning at Work

I like to think of work as a game. As a player, I need to know the rules of how to play and how to win. These are set out via clear goals and objectives from management. I want teammates (employees) and fans (customers) who are loyal and energetic. Lastly I have to love the game and care about the outcome of playing it.

Problems begin when people don’t have clear direction from leadership. They are not placed in roles that are aligned with their strengths or where the outcomes of work feeds their souls. According to Forbes, employees like to use their strengths. A strong defensive player shouldn’t be thrown onto the court as a power-forward, and a creative contributor should not be head of sales.

Another major deterrent to engagement is when the company either lacks values and purpose, or those phrases have just been written down somewhere and are no longer alive in the organization. Leaders at work are like coaches. Their job is to inspire everyone to win, to achieve the larger purpose.

Want to know how to improve employee engagement? See what the 7 most fascinating employee engagement trends for 2016 are.

The Missing Piece for Disengaged Employees

Google the words “employee engagement” and you will see no shortage of articles explaining why disengagement happens and what you can do about it. Most place the responsibility firmly in the hands of leadership. They suggest defining the company purpose and values, acknowledging employee triumphs, creating clear goals and objectives, and most importantly creating a culture where open communication is valued.

Managers must ask questions so that they can find out what employees want – from their jobs or in their personal lives. This can be as simple as a new stapler, or as complex as creating a telework situation so that someone can finish their degree or start a family.

Great managers also ask employees to share their ideas. And when those ideas are implemented, they share the employee’s triumphs with the whole team or company. They let everyone see the difference that was made.

In workplaces that value open communication, especially between employees and their managers, issues and frustrations quickly surface. Instead of festering and eventually leading to disengagement, managers can offer support. Employees are more likely to trust leadership, building relationships where people are more forthcoming and willing to ask for help.

Disengagement may be an epidemic in the American workplace, but communication is the antidote. When it comes down to it, many of us are willing to let down a boss who is a stranger at a company where we are just pawns in their game. But how many of us are willing to let down the people we care about, when we are trusted equals in an enterprise where outcomes truly matter?

Want to learn more about why your employees are disengaged & how to motivate them? Check out this infographic from our friends at Company Folders, or read their expanded article here.


About the Author

This article was written by David Mizne of 15five, an awesome place for people to connect with management. They get to answer questions about their work and communicate if they are meeting their objectives and goals. see more.


Women on Top in Tech – Dr. Sanna Gaspard, Founder and CEO of Rubitection



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Dr. Sanna Gaspard is the Founder and CEO of Rubitection, a medical device start-up developing a diagnostic tool for early stage pressure detection, assessment, and management. She is an Entrepreneur, inventor, and biomedical engineer with a passion for innovation, entrepreneurship, healthcare and medical devices. She has received recognition and awards including being selected as a finalist for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards(’13), a semi-finalist for the Big C competition (’14), a finalist for the Mass Challenge Business accelerator in Boston, and taking 1st place at the 3 Rivers Investment Venture Fair’s Technology showcase (‘11). Her vision is to make the Rubitect Assessment System the global standard solution for early bedsore detection and management.

What makes you do what you do? 
I am driven to have impact and improve healthcare as I have a strong drive to problem solve, comes up with new ideas, and see them come to life.

How did you rise in the industry you are in? 
I first focused on getting the educational background and then I pursued the goals I have for myself. I got my PhD in Biomedical Engineering with a specialization in medical device development. Having the educational background is important as a woman and minority to assist people in taking your seriously.  After completing my PhD, I focused on bringing my invention for a medical device for early bedsore detection and prevention called the Rubitect Assessment System to market to help save lives and improve care.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I started my startup, Rubitection , because I felt it was the best way to bring the technology to market. I knew that if I did not try to commercialize the technology, it would not make it to the doctors and nurses. I also have confidence that I could manage developing the technology since I had taken classes on entrepreneurship and had my PhD in biomedical engineering with a specialization in medical devices.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
No, I don’t have a specific mentor in my field. I am looking for one at the moment. However, I do look up to Steve Jobs and Oprah as examples of how one can start with nothing and work their way up and build a successful, global, and reputable business and brand.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?  
I first try to find people who have fundamental technical or work experience to be competent to complete the work. I then evaluate the person for intangible skills like independent thinking, reliability, leadership, resilience, organizational skills, strong work ethic, open mindedness/flexibility, and good communication skills.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why? 
I consciously make an effort as a minority woman in tech, I intimately understand the need to promote diversity within my business and outside my business. I first hire the best people for the job and also make a point to hire women and minorities qualified for the position.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?  
It takes resilience, vision, being a team player, an ability to inspire others and delegate work, knowing your weakness, and knowing when to put your business or yourself first.

Advice for others?
My advice to others is to take calculated risks, pursue every opportunity, surround yourself with supporters, build your team with smart dedicated people, and stay focused on your vision. I am striving to implement this advice myself as I work towards commercializing my technology for early bedsore detection, grow my team, and recruit clinical partners to address an $11 billion US healthcare problem which affects millions around the world.

If anyone is interested in learning more about our work or company, please contact us at [email protected].

To learn more about Dr. Sanna Gaspard, CEO of Rubitection visit:

If you’d like to get in touch with Dr. Sanna Gaspard, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about Rubitection, please click here.

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Women on Top in Tech – Suzanne Wisse-Huiskes, Founder of MatchBox Consultancy and an Advocate at the Global Tech Advocates Network



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Suzanne Wisse-Huiskes is a Strategic Consultant and Founder at MatchBox Consultancy with offices in the United Kingdom and Nigeria. MatchBox provides expert advise in Impact Investing, Alternative Finance, Venture Capital, Fundraising, Women Leadership, Business Development, and Economic Empowerment. She is also an Advocate at the Global Tech Advocates Network. Dedicated to challenging talented entrepreneurs, Suzanne is an official mentor at startup/accelerator programs in Africa, Europe, and Asia. She was awarded top 400 most successful women in the Netherlands for two years in a row.

What makes you do what you do?
My drive is to enable entrepreneurs to grow their businesses by improving their access to funding. This can elevate an entire community. I believe that Alternative Finance can potentially be a powerful catalyst for shifting the way our financial markets work.

I love the ingredients of the alternative finance market: the innovative nature of the industry; the global playing field; the turbo speed of change. The market is booming and shows little sign of slowing down.

I founded MatchBox to support highly motivated entrepreneurs and investors in their mission to create profitable businesses with impact. MatchBox has become a trusted partner to these clients: they value our strategic and operational expertise, as well as our strong global network used to consult and connect. The requests vary from developing large investing programs to ensure access to capital for SME’s, to developing funding strategies for entrepreneurs. What works in one country may not work in others. We understand the local players and the local markets. This work is fully aligned with what is important to me.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I’ve been in the crowdfunding industry since 2008. Back then, Facebook only had a 100 million active users as opposed to the 2.000 million users today. Kickstarter, one of the world’s largest funding platforms, was yet to launch. Joining the industry that early in the game, allowed me to rise with it. I was fortunate to be part of initiatives that pushed the Alternative Finance ecosystem, first in Amsterdam, then on a broader European level.

Then later on other emerging markets began to interest me. I moved to Nigeria, to work in Africa’s fastest growing economy and home to exciting trends in capital and fintech. I familiarized myself with the investing ecosystems in African countries. Today, I work in alternative finance ecosystems in Asia, Africa and Europe. Being able to learn, share and compare best practices from different economies to me is key in the rise of the industry. Currently, the crowdfunding market in Asia alone is worth over 200 billion Euros. That’s huge!

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I’ve always followed my heart in my professional life. I focus on work that I am passionate about and am not afraid to take the path less travelled. So leadership, demographics never held me back. With my experience and skills I am well positioned to successfully get the job done. For me it doesn’t feel like it’s a stretch.

Even more so, my clients see it as a big advantage to have women on the job. I recently worked on an impact investing program in West Africa focussing on women-led SME’s and experienced the benefits of a diverse team. Women entrepreneurs see the world through a different lens and, in turn, do things differently.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work? How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
The industry was completely new when I started, with no seniors to learn from. As a strong believer in mentorship, I do reach out to people in other industries for feedback and to bounce ideas.

I also learn a lot from working with various entrepreneurs. Collaborating with Sir Richard Branson in the beginning of my career was encouraging. We did a successful Crowdfunding Campaign for the elephants in Botswana. But I’m equally impressed by entrepreneurs that make a huge impact on their community no matter the circumstances. I’ve seen exceptional people grow businesses in the poorest regions of Nigeria. One can only admire their leadership.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
For me, mentoring young entrepreneurs is a great way to develop and grow talent. My focus is usually on two mentees at a time to ensure there is enough time to discuss ideas and challenges. I worked at fintech startups for almost 10 years before founding MatchBox. So there are plenty of stories to share and learn from, both on failures as well as on successes.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I’m very vocal on the need for diversity. I’ve always found myself in the male dominated groups. First at University, then in my first corporate position, and later as a Board Member. At some of my MBA Finance classes, I was the only woman in a room of 50 men. It never bothered or intimidated me. It just made me work a little harder.

Nonetheless, diversity is much needed. I strongly believe the industry is missing out on many brilliant women. That is why I dedicate a great deal of time mentoring female entrepreneurs. We discuss the tools their businesses require to grow and attract the right type of capital. Investors still have a different approach towards female founders. This year, we are launching an initiative called ‘the Republic of Female Founders’, to provide practical tools and guidelines that are specific for this group.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
My general rule of thumb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. For me, it’s all about collaborative leadership. My industry is becoming increasingly complex, so sharing best practices will bring us far. That’s why I became an Advocate of the Tech Shanghai Advocates, part of the Global Tech Advocates. This group of senior leaders in the tech community is created to champion and accelerate the growth of the local technology sector.

I am also a fan of the CrowdfundingHub and Crowddialog in Europe, and Ingressive in Africa for similar reasons: Ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they believe in the positive impact of innovation in finance. My peers are all trailblazers in the alternative finance industry, I consider myself to be in great company.

Advice for others?
I strongly believe in collaboration, so building business relationships is key. I truly foster my relations. To me it doesn’t feel like work, but rather like building bonds. Seek opportunities to connect and reach out. It really pays off to have a strong network. At MatchBox, I work with a network of exceptional local experts. If you need advice and consulting on your funding strategy, impact investing program or crowdfunding strategy, we will gladly work with you. Contact us at MatchBox.

If you’d like to get in touch with Suzanne Wisse – Huiskes, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about MatchBox Consultancy, please click here.

To learn more about  Global Tech Advocates Network, please click here.

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