The Walking Disengaged

The zombie apocalypse is inevitable… or so the diehard fans of the genre will tell you. But in the meantime, while we await the outbreak, perhaps the more immediate threat isn’t the walking undead, but rather the walking disengaged.

It’s an epidemic
The walking disengaged are ravaging businesses at an ever-increasing rate. Better identified as those employees who, despite showing up for work each day, are not completely present, the walking disengaged can wreak havoc on a business and take a significant toll on productivity. And perhaps the most alarming fact about workplace zombies – they’re contagious.

Do you know how to spot the walking disengaged?
When one worker becomes disengaged, it’s only a matter of time before others follow suit. Often spurred on by feelings of “well, if he’s not going to give 100%, why should I,” disengagement can quickly infect even the most well-oiled teams and eventually spread throughout an entire company. But, before you start enforcing mandatory cubicle quarantines, it may be more beneficial to learn the tell-tale signs of the walking disengaged.  

Appearance
Often disheveled and unkempt, the walking disengaged have lost all regard for company dress policies and show little attention to personal appearance. If a once impeccably coiffed employee all of a sudden starts to favor a “just rolled out of bed” motif, it could be a sign that they have been infected.

Movement
The walking disengaged have no sense of urgency. No matter how high their inbox is stacked, these employees are often the ones who can be found aimlessly ambling about the office. What little attention span they have left will be fixated on anything else other than the task at hand.

Communication
Upon entering the office each day, the walking disengaged have digressed from a usually upbeat hello to a more somber groan accompanied by a heavy sigh. Once an active participant in team meetings, zombie employees are now more content to spend their time texting or staring at that weird spot on the ceiling.

Many a fool-hearted leader has fallen victim to the walking disengaged by assuming their employees are immune. Watching for the warning signs and then taking immediate action to get to the bottom of your workforce’s discontent is imperative to ensuring a business full of forward-thinking, actively engaged workers. Ignoring the problem only pushes us closer to a zombie apocalypse.

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5 Responses to The Walking Disengaged

  1. Gary Brose June 21, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    Jared, nice article. Spotting the disengaged is the first step and you did a good job of showing the signs and helping managers identify them. The next step, “doing something about it” is the harder part … but doable. One important thing to remember is a line Abe Lincoln used. He said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Fact is that we cannot reach everyone and turn them all around. Some folks will never be happy and being “happy” is one of the first keys to being motivated. So as you try to push the right button to get people engaged, remember that it is not your job to be the happiness fairy. Your job is to create the proper atmosphere where people can be happy (and engaged) if they want to be. Managment: Hey, if it were easy,everybody could do it!

    • Refresh Leadership June 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Gary! And I couldn’t agree more that the “doing something about it” part is difficult. This is where a well-defined company culture becomes especially important. A company with a strong cultural focus is in much better position to actively engage their workforce than those that have an ambiguous or undefined culture.

  2. Geoff Vincent June 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Spot on! I worked at a company that was filled with the walking dis-engaged. For a while I couldn’t understand why the business owner/CEO tolerated it but as I continued to work for him I learned it was because of him. It all filters from the top down and this CEO was either oblivious or just didn’t care. A bit of both, i think.

  3. Jill April 15, 2014 at 11:17 pm #

    I love the label ‘walking disengaged’! I believe it is what continues my search for a ‘healthy balance’ workplace. Carrying the workload of the ‘walking disengaged’ burns me out at a faster rate than perhaps any other workplace dysfunction!!

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