Building Employee Engagement for a Stronger Safety Culture (part 5)

disengaged employeeLast issue we looked at the psychology of an engaged employee and the ramifications of engagement for a safety culture.  But there’s a flip side to all that in the disengaged employee.  It’s important to know that while we’re actively building levels of engagement in our employees, our disengaged employees are just as actively driving levels of engagement downward.  If we’re not identifying and doing something about our disengaged employees, their presence will militate against our efforts to build a safety culture.  e-books-combined-new

A disengaged employee is cynical, skeptical, uninspired and negative–which can be contagious for the uncommitted unengaged population (they can turn the unengaged into disengaged).  They tend to stay for what they get from the organization, rather than what they can give to it.  Hence, they are always looking for an exit–which may not be a bad thing!  If they leave voluntarily, that saves you the headache of trying to manage them out of the organization.

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Eric Svendsen

Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is Principal and lead change agent for safetyBUILT-IN, a safety-leadership learning and development organization. He has over 20 years experience in creating and executing outcomes-based leadership development and culture change initiatives aligned to organizational goals, and he personally led the safety-culture initiatives of a number of client organizations that resulted in “best ever safety performance” years for those companies.


  1. Gary Melrose says:

    Good article, but rather scathing of the ‘disengaged employee’. Often that disengaged employee is at the tail end of an engagement spiral after years of ‘marvellous, grand new approaches’ as yet another shiny new boardroom champion attempts to wrest apparent change from minimum investment!
    Sometimes it isn’t cynicism…sometimes it’s simply experience of countless other failed initiatives!
    If you want to engage employees, don’t sell the message – live the message…and keep it alive. Provide the promised time and resource and empower the key stakeholders. DO change, don’t just talk it!

    • Good points all. There is an exercise we do in an earlier segment of this video in which I ask participants to identify those on their team who are engaged, unengaged and disengaged. Once they’ve differentiated their employees in this way, I make the point that there’s usually no one who’s more engaged than a new employee. They are excited about the job, they are willing to learn anything and everything, and they are fully on board. And if they are now disengaged, we have to ask ourselves how they got that way under our watch.

  2. Ray Hoilund says:

    I appreciate your articles and material. I would be interested in your comments as to some of the causes of creating disengaged employees and other than simply working them towards the door what are some strategies for turning them around?

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