How to Re-Motivate a Disengaged Employee

Maybe you’ve noticed that one of your employees, the one who used to show up early every day and take initiative on projects, has been taking a backseat for the past few weeks, or months. There are a number of reasons why a formerly enthusiastic employee could become disengaged (some of them out of your control), but there is always something that you can do as their employer.

Disengaged employees expect more from their workplace than they’re currently receiving. Employees long to feel they are truly an important part of something bigger and that their voice matters. Do you create a collaborative environment? Do you provide and ask for feedback?  Although it’s nearly impossible to not come across someone that develops ill will on the business no matter what measures are done, you can always take active measures to reduce the risk of this feeling affecting the rest of the business or growing to a point where it cannot be contained.

Give Them Sense of Purpose

Employees seek a sense of purpose in their work. They want to feel that their work is leading to career progression. If they don’t feel the work they’re doing is engaging, they, in turn, are likely to be disengaged.  Individuals tend to thrive with a sense of autonomy in their work to apply their talents and strengths.

Reevaluate how you’re engaging with your team. Employee engagement is not a clear cut process. It’s ongoing and requires an understanding what a disengaged employee needs to stay motivated. Examine your specific situation and organizational culture. Assistance from senior leadership can help dramatically, as it will take time and resources. 


A time of constant instant communication is among us, where lives are largely experienced through digital interactions. Employees expect a similar work experience. Managers who consistently engage with employees are three times as likely to have engaged employees. Managers must make employee communication a priority since millennials consider company culture to be incredibly important.

Managers should engage with employees beyond their work lives and make an authentic effort to get to know their reports. This creates a safe environment where employees feel a sense of greater purpose and that they’re cared for and therefore will care about the work. This will allow employees to feel comfortable to ask questions, take risks, try experiments, and challenge norms and expectations. 

A key driver of disengaged employees is lack of clarity around performance expectations. Traditional forms of performance evaluation leave too big of a gap between employees and managers. When managers communicate on a consistent basis, ideally once a week, it makes the flow of digestible, meaningful feedback on expectations much easier. Great managers are constantly in communication with employees regarding responsibilities and progress.

Be a Coach

Develop a coaching style of management, and steer away from traditional command-and-control approaches. Asking questions and providing tailored feedback is more effective than simply telling people what to do. 

Be cautious of overdoing it and know when to step back. You must ask yourself if you’re providing effective feedback based on your own expertise and effectively communicating with other colleagues who have the needed skills outside of our own. Effective coaching and communication aren’t just between managers and their reports, but between colleagues throughout the organization who can work together to provide all employees with learning opportunities across a range and depth of skills that no single manager could possess.

An unhappy employee could keep their dissatisfaction to themselves, or they could choose to be openly negative. At best, this will lead to them quitting (leaving you to find and train a replacement), but at worst this employee could be driven to take action against your business. Look carefully at your operations and practices, and carefully consider whether anything you do could be an actionable claim. Dissatisfied employees are an inevitability, but there is no excuse for creating a hostile work environment. Make sure that you’ve thoroughly protected your business with a comprehensive New Jersey Business Insurance plan that includes employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) for any employee-related claims.


About Provident Protection Plus

At Provident Protection Plus, we have served the businesses and residents of New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania for more than 65 years. We are a wholly-owned subsidiary of Provident Bank, the region’s premier banking institution, and we are prepared to offer you personal, business, employee benefit, and risk management solutions. To learn more about our coverage options, contact our specialists today at (888) 990-0526.