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Disengaged employees: signs to worry about

March 13, 2015
POSTED BY: Michelle Reines | PeopleFirst leadership Consultant and Coach for Zoetis

Are your employees passionate? Do they come to work every day enthusiastic and eager to contribute to the dairy’s success? If not, you could be missing one of the biggest opportunities to improve performance and profitability at your dairy.

It might not seem like a big deal to have a few disengaged employees until you consider what the risks are to the team and dairy. Here’s what disengagement looks like:

  • An upturn in mistakes. As team members begin to disengage, their eye for detail starts to falter. They become careless because they’re not emotionally invested in the dairy.
  • An increase in absenteeism, tardiness or workers’ compensation claims.
  • An escalation in peer-to-peer conflict.
  • Blaming others for mistakes, challenges or problems versus working collaboratively to resolve issues as a team.
  • Not staying late, even if there is work to do. Employees never go the extra mile. They become “clock watchers” and seem to always have an excuse for why they can’t put in the extra time.
  • Never asking for additional work. Employees just wait for orders.
  • Acting fearful, stressed out or overly emotional. When fear blocks engagement, that’s often the result of an overly stressful or negative work environment. When this happens, you lose the qualities that a collaborative environment fosters and end up with employees who are just there for the paycheck. Keep in mind, your leadership could be hurting the work environment.
  • Increased turnover. Employees who are engaged in the workplace are 87% less likely to leave the company.
  • Decreased level of trust. Your employees aren’t speaking up, contributing ideas or taking healthy risks for fear of being wrong or reprimanded. 
  • A change in body language. Employees are looking down when you speak to them, have their arms crossed or shoulders hunched.
  • Increased costs. You might miss some of these signs, but costs are hard to ignore. Studies show it can cost a business one-fifth of an employee’s annual salary to replace an employee.2,3 For a worker making $25,000, each new employee would cost about $5,000 in hiring and training time and lost productivity, not to mention stress for employees who stay. What’s more, companies with high levels of employee engagement reported a same-year operating margin nearly three times higher than those with low levels of engagement.4

Employees who are engaged are willing to go the extra mile. They ask or volunteer for work. They are walking testimonials for your dairy, freely offering positive word-of-mouth. Download a handy version of the list above to make sure you are leading an engaged, productive team on the dairy. By ensuring your team is happy, appreciated, recognized, developed and held respectfully accountable, you’ll cultivate an environment where success can not only survive but thrive.


1 Corporate Leadership Council. Driving Performance and Retention Through Employee Engagement. Available at: http://www.usc.edu/programs/cwfl/assets/pdf/Employee%20engagement.pdf. Accessed February 10, 2015.

2 Development Dimensions International, Retaining Talen: A Benchmarking Study 2001. Available at: http://www.ddiworld.com/DDIWorld/media/trend-research/retainingtalentabenchmarkingstudy_fullreport_ddi.pdf?ext=.pdf. Accessed February 10, 2015.

3 Center for American Progress. There Are significant Business Costs to Replacing Employees. Available at: http://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/CostofTurnover.pdf. Accessed February 10, 2015.

4 Towers Watson. Global Workforce Study. 2012 Available at: http://www.towerswatson.com/assets/pdf/2012-Towers-Watson-Global-Workforce-Study.pdf. Accessed February 10, 2015.


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