Executive Development Blog

Engaged, Disengaged, Actively Disengaged. What’s the Difference?

Posted by UNC Executive Development on Mar 17, 2016 11:14:32 AM


If your CEO asked you today what percentage of your workforce was actively engaged, would you be able to give a fair ballpark figure?

If your workforce is typical, about one-third of your employees are actively engaged, according to a recent Gallup poll. The poll found that nearly half, or 49 percent, are disengaged while 18 percent are actively disengaged. The biggest concern with this is the potential loss of an organization’s most valued talent. If improving employee engagement has not been on your organization’s radar screen, it should be. 

What’s the Difference in the types of employee engagement levels?

Engaged workers are the ones you look forward to seeing on Monday morning because their enthusiasm is catching. They have likely been identified as high-potential employees and feature prominently in their organization’s succession planning process. Engaged workers demonstrate:


  • Consistently high levels of performance
  • Natural innovation and a drive for efficiency
  • Intentional building of supportive efficiency
  • Clear understanding about their roles
  • Emotional commitment to what they do
  • High energy enthusiasm
  • Commitment to their organization

Disengaged workers, on the other hand, view their jobs as an exchange of time for a paycheck. They arrive and leave on time, take their breaks, never volunteer for extra work or projects, and do little else in between beyond the minimal effort. They show little passion or creativity for their jobs and go through the motions.

Disengaged workers may have been actively engaged workers at one time. Somewhere along the way, though, they became disengaged because of a lack of career growth or promotion, a perception of salary inequity, job dislike, or distrust in their direct manager and senior management.

Actively disengaged workers are the most damaging employees in the workplace. They are unhappy and let that unhappiness show in words, attitudes and actions. They undermine the performance of others by constantly voicing their displeasure and listing the many reasons why they are so miserable in their jobs. 

While it is not impossible to re-engage actively disengaged workers, it is much more challenging. Letting employees know that senior leaders are aware of employee engagement levels and are committed to taking positive action to address it is a key step.

Learn more about employee engagement by downloading a copy of UNC Executive Development’s white paper titled, Focusing on Employee Engagement: How to Measure it and Improve It.

Click to Download Full White Paper

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