I blog repeatedly on the topic of employee engagement, and I’ll be spending the rest of this week looking at seemingly conflicting reports on the status of engagement currently and the general effect of the recession on employee engagement. But first, I wanted to discuss disengagement.

In a Gallup report on the high levels of disengagement in Germany (only 13% engaged), Gallup consultant Marco Nink assigns blame for this to “a poor corporate culture that discourages personnel.”

But the statement that truly intrigued me in the report was a comment by Marco of the process of disengagement:

“Many employees are highly motivated when joining a company but then become increasingly disillusioned. And when continuously neglected, they will switch off at some point. They will resign inwardly, so to speak. This doesn’t happen overnight, but occurs rather as a process, due to experiences during the routine workday.”

“Resign inwardly” – what an excellent definition of disengagement. I’ve seen more “official” definitions of engagement than I can count (and have written on several of them here, here, and here), but this is the first concise definition of DISengagement that gets to the heart of the issue.

Think about people in your organisation who have given their two weeks’ notice prior to leaving for a new job. Sure, many are conscientious and wrap up loose ends for you, but most are just clearing their desks. They are already out the door in their minds. But the good news is you know this person is leaving.

With the disengaged, these people are still coming to work every day, but there is no end point in sight for them. They aren’t bringing any creativity, inspiration or excitement to their work. They are just continually tying up loose ends, if that.

What would be your definition of disengagement or a disengaged employee? What level of effort do you go to in re-engaging the disengaged? Is this level of effort even appropriate?

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