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There is anecdotal evidence that employee disengagement is increasing. Critically discuss the importance of engaged workers to organisational success.

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Employee Engagement and Disengagement


The business environment is changing, and the different stakeholders such as employees and employers have to adjust to balance with the changing dynamics. In the entire process, the worker plays an important role, and an engaged employee improves productivity and efficiency at the workplace. However, worker disengagement is a common problem in the workplace, and the causative agents are numerous. The aim of the paper is to define worker engagement and disengagement, causes of worker disengagement, and reasons contributing to increased disengagement at the business environment. Others areas discussed include implications of worker disengagement and strategies to improve worker engagement.

Definition Worker Engagement/Disengagement

Wollard (2011) defines disengagement has the disconnection of persons from their work roles through protecting themselves from emotional, mental, and physical perceived or real threats. The disconnection may be attributed to individuals lacking belief in purpose; the individual is powerless, and separation between work and personal activities. Fairlie (2011) analyses different definitions of worker engagement and the common variables are dedication, absorption and vigour. These variables determine the approach in which a worker employs in accomplishing business requirements and activities (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013). Therefore, worker engagement is the passion and aim of fulfilling workplace requirements due to environmental and operational situations while worker disengagement is the lack of urge to accomplish organisational duties and obligations.

Causes of Worker Disengagement

Wollard (2011) highlights emotional, physical, and mental threats as some of the causes of worker disengagement. Other causes that Wollard (2011) presents include inter-role conflict and failure, hostile attribution, personal control, political skill, job limiting pain and burnout. Bhuvanaiah and Raya (2015) identifies lack of motivation as another component that contributes to worker disengagement. Different forms of motivation exist, and the management of such organisations should encourage employ different motivational approaches but limitations on these processes results in worker engagement (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013).

Apart from the individual factors, some organisational and workplace problems may advance the worker disengagement. Some of these include organisational ethics problems, workplace bullying, fear, and distrust according to Wollard (2011). Jenkins and Delbridge (2013) identifies the internal processes as an important component of disengagement because the lack of institutionalised measures to support the employees translates in disengagement. The psychological fundamentals are shaped by the internal process meaning addressing the workers psychological may address worker disengagement (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013).

The moral and ethical aspects also contribute to worker disengagement. Moore et al. (2012) discuss on moral and ethical variables in influencing employee disengagement and engagement. Lack of moral and ethical drivers limits the possibility of employees’ present their views, which may force the employees to participate in unethical and immoral behaviours.

Reasons for Increase in Today’s Business Environment Disengagement

Fairlie (2011) identifies the charging operational dynamics as some of the factors contributing to increasing disengagement. For example, competition and aggressive marketing shifts the focus from the employees to the customers rather than balancing the requirements of the internal environment with the external environment (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013). Lack of concentration on the employees while concentrating on the organisational production and operational processes diverts the attention of the employees. A balanced approach in which the requirements of the employees are considered while advancing organisational requirements is important.

Moore et al. (2012) state that the disengagement is attributed to changing employment requirements when it comes to ethical and moral obligations. Some employees have high regard and levels of ethical requirements while others are driven by selfish requirements. The conflict between ethical and unethical behaviours affects the business environment, which increases worker disengagement.

Implications of Worker Disengagement

The common implication of worker disengagement is high employee turnover. Wollard (2011) states that workers will leave and seek opportunities in different areas, which directly affects the production and productivity at the original organisation. Fairlie (2011) states that lowering of productivity and inefficient at the workplace are examples of issues associated with worker disengagement. It means that engagement is integral to the success of an organisation based on strategic requirements. Hence, worker disengagement limits the capabilities of an organisation to operate effectively within the prism of strategic requirements.

Jenkins and Delbridge (2013) highlights productivity and lack of motivation as consequences of worker disengagement. Conflicts and misunderstandings within an organisation also will increase because of conflict of interest and lack of identified approach to processes. Nair (2013) identifies helplessness, losing values and beliefs as some consequences of worker disengagement. Productive organisations have defined value system, which means that worker disengagement directly affects the productivity of an organisation.

In addition, there are other internal and external processes that affect the entire cost of worker disengagement (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013). For example, high employee turnover results in increased costs of hiring and recruitment. The lack of motivation reduces concentration on the work while ethical and moral shortcomings foster theft, fraud and other criminal activities. These factors are directly linked with the worker disengagement, which should be avoided.

Strategies Organizations can use to Improve Worker Engagement

Wollard (2011) understands the causes of worker disengagement and the solution is advancing policies and strategies that support worker engagement. Some of the solutions that Wollard (2011) proposes include self-consciousness, self-confidence, respect, education and outside activities. Encouraging and advancing self-consciousness and self-confidence are integral in inter-relationship behaviours and determining the direction in which the employees can take to accomplish different organisational activities (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013). Education through encouraging human resource development and training provides the worker with skills and avenues to highlight and address complexities and problems.

Fairlie (2011) states that human resource department should play an integral role in addressing and encouraging worker engagement. Fairlie (2011) presents the example of managerial training as one of the approaches that can influence positively the behaviour and engagement of the workers. In addition, developing talent either passively or actively improves worker engagement. The management of any organisation has the moral and ethical requirement to develop continuously the employees, which indirectly encourages worker engagement (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013). Fairlie (2011) also brings the aspect of meaningful work in advancing engagement requirements. The work design and description should reflect the requirements of the employees in that it results in motivational undertones, which are important in accomplishing assigned duties and tasks. Other factors that Fairlie (2011) identifies include intrinsic rewards, extrinsic rewards, leadership and organisational features, supervisory relationships, organisational support, coworker relationships and work and demand balance. Incorporating these different factors at different levels within the organisation ensures the employees are motivated into accomplishing organisational requirements.

Moore et al. (2012) analyse the social construct in worker disengagement. Moral disengagement is common in the workplace because of the behaviours that limit effectiveness, and these problems can be avoided through embracing a positive societal construct (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013). For example, unethical behaviours result in a lack of motivation in some employees meaning advancing a strong organisational culture that has defined values and ethical frameworks.

Bhuvanaiah and Raya (2015) identifies the management has an integral component in addressing problems of worker disengagement. Some of the identified engagement initiatives include effective leadership based on motivation, growing employee talent, empowering the employees and incorporating the employees in decision making processes (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013). These approaches are important since it ensures the employees are involved in the decision making and operational requirements at the business environment. Nair (2013) states that the solution to the problem is through bonding and engaging different stakeholders within the organisation. Teamwork and collaboration may also play a role since effective communication may address the problems or highlight the problems at an earlier stage before the situations worsen (Jenkins and Delbridge, 2013).


Worker engagement and disengagement are common in the current business environment because of the organisation and operational dynamics. Engagement is the urge of workers to complete assigned duties effectively while disengagement is the lack of passion and the urge to accomplish assigned duties. The causes of worker engagement include changing business requirements, ideological and physiological changes, and lack of clearly defined approach to accomplishing organisational requirements; others are unethical and lack of morality in the workplace. The business environment is changing, and these dynamics should be reflected in the manner in which the business is operated. Factors such as globalisation and cultural diversity influence business operations and management. The management of the organisations should reflect these changes and incorporate these changes in business operations. Ineffective work engagement approaches reduce productivity and efficient because of burnouts, high employee turnover and lack of motivation. The organisations can address the problems of worker disengagement through effective leadership, embracing ethical and moral behaviours, inclusive decision making, and effective communication.


Bhuvanaiah, T and Raya, RP 2015 ‘Mechanism of improved performance: intrinsic motivation and employee engagement’, SCMS Journal of Indian Management, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 92 – 97.

Fairlie, P 2011, ‘Meaningful work, employee engagement, and other key employee outcomes: implications for human resource development’, Advances in Developing Human Resources, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 508-525.

Jenkins, S and Delbridge, R 2013, ‘Context matters: Examining ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ approaches to employee engagement in two workplaces’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 24, no. 14, pp. 2670 — 2691.

Moore, C, Detert, JR, Klebe, T, Baker, V.L. and Mayer, DM 2012 ‘Why employees do bad things: Moral disengagement and unethical organisational behaviour’, Personnel Psychology, vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 1-48.

Nair, R 2013, ‘Disengagement to disillusionment’, Impact of EE Section II, pp. 40 – 44.

Wollard, KK 2011, ‘Quiet desperation another perspective on employee engagement’, Advances in Developing Human Resources, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 526-537.