5 Things Disengaged Employees Need from Their Leaders

As a leadership coach, I spend a decent amount of time talking with leaders about their disengaged employees. I’ve noticed over time that as leaders, we often say, “If he won’t step up, he’s going to have to leave.”

At the same time, our employees are saying, “My leader doesn’t appreciate me, so I’ve checked out, and I want to leave.”

Leaving, however, doesn’t have to be the solution for a disengaged worker, and I believe that individual leaders – and not organizations – are mostly responsible for creating engaged employees.

So, what are some of the most common reasons employees feel disengaged, and how can leaders address them? Here are five things that you, as a leader, can do to re-engage the people on your team.

5 Things Disengaged Employees Need from Their Leaders

  • They need to know you appreciate them. Show your appreciation authentically and often. Tell your people “thank you.” Tell others in the organization about something great they did. Make it genuine and personal.
  • They need to believe that what they do matters. Talk about the big picture and what the team is doing to move the organization closer to it. Do this often! Also, find out what matters to each person on your team. Help each person connect what matters to them to what they are living out inside the organization.
  • They need their opinions to matter. Don’t disregard or ignore your employees’ opinions. Ask what they think. Allow them to play into the decision-making process. Most workers don’t expect to have it “their way” every time. They do want you to listen, especially when the issue falls into their realm of expertise.
  • They need to know you trust them. This is huge. Trust your people to do their jobs. That’s why you hired them! Don’t micromanage. If they make a mistake, coach them. If you need to closely oversee a sensitive project, explain why. Trust is earned, but initially trust must be given. The leader must be willing to be vulnerable and trust first.
  • They need the freedom to do great work. Believe in your people, then give them the freedom they need to be creative, to problem solve, and to think big. Empower them and set the bar high, then allow them the room they need work and grow.


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  • Juan Arroyo says:

    Linda thanks for the great quality of content.

    I can relate to this article because I’m going through a similar reflection process right now. I’m struggling to see how I’m adding value to my work environment and how my work matters. Not necessarily disengaged, but simply feel like I’m just in the shadows.

    This are things as leaders we regularly forget. Our team needs encouragement just as we do.

    • Linda Sasser says:

      Hi Juan! Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad the blog is adding value to you.

      You are right, we often get so busy with our own work we can forget to encourage others – whether it’s our own leader or our teammates.

      As far as feeling “in the shadows,” well that’s not a great feeling. I know there could be 100 reasons why that’s the case, but if I felt that I way I think I would find some one-on-one time with my leader to ask how I could bring more value to the vision. Reacquaint yourself to the vision. You might find some value in a previous post I’ve written about how to live out your company’s vision. (http://www.leadershipwithsass.com/2011/07/how-to-live-out-your-companys-vision/)

      I also like to look for small NBD’s (never been done). These are things that are special but the company has never done before like breaking a sales record or teaching a teammate a new skill or even job shadow a new position so you better understand your peers’ work. It’s important to celebrate the small things that we so often overlook.