A disengaged culture: 5 things that will create it


I have not met a leader in business who has purposely created a disengaged culture or workforce, but I have met many who have created one without realizing it. The reasons are usually intangible and emotionally-based – not something that can quickly be identified as a cause/effect.

There are dozens of articles explaining the best way to get your employees more engaged. Instead, let’s identify some of the top reasons people disengage so you can avoid them!

5 Behaviors for a Disengaged Culture

1. Inconsistent behavior

Be inconsistent.  Show favoritism, or inappropriate reactions.  Overreact.  Underreact.

One of the most toxic behaviors is a different set of rules for different employees with added qualifiers like tenure, or title for justification of the inconsistency.

When employees do not feel your behavior is something they can depend on they likely won’t depend on you. Simple as that.

Regardless, if a leader behaves differently depending on which employee is in the room you can expect little to no engagement or trust and will be on the fast track to a disengaged culture and workforce.

2. Rules are for losers … and employees

You’re above the rules and so is your leadership team.  The rules don’t apply to you!

So show up late for work, skip or be late for meetings.

Of course, come down harshly on anyone else who breaks the rules.  Enforcement is your job, right?

When the rules don’t apply to everyone, it builds resentment and a foundation of contempt throughout the workplace.  Rules must apply to everyone, and be lived by the leadership team to establish them in your culture.

3. Dismissive treatment

Dismiss people when they approach with concern or questions.  Be distracted.  Don’t show interest or concern in what is being said.

The reason that working on a company’s culture is so important is because everyone deserves to feel like they matter. When dismissive behavior is used with employees the ability to feel like they matter instantly erodes.

Each of us has our own perspective on what is important to us in each moment. If a leader diminishes the importance of something an employee regards very important the likelihood of that employee approaching the leader for anything is slim.

They won’t just figuratively disconnect, they will literally not want anything to do with that individual for any reason.

4. Intimidation

Scare people.  Give instructions through threat; this applies just as much to nonverbal communication as it does verbally.

“Lead by example with hope; never fear” -Michelle Obama

Leadership by way of fear is not leadership at all. It’s intimidation. Intimidating employees into submission is not sustainable and could backfire on a human rights level.

Regardless of the reason using physical or emotional intimidation with employees will disengage the employee it is directed towards, but those watching will also take note and the damage will be done on a much larger scale.

5. Indecisiveness

Don’t make decisions quickly.  Don’t be confident in the decisions you make.  Take no responsibility for the outcome of bad decisions.

Similar to inconsistent behavior, indecisiveness reduces to lack of trust. We all want to have confidence in the person making decisions. If those decisions never come or are not delivered with clarity and confidence a leader will lose credibility.

Lack of credibility leads to lack of connection with employees. Without connection, the leadership presented is false. You are only followed due to a title, not your ability to make good decisions and act.

What you should do to prevent a disengaged culture

Great leaders are self aware.

Pay attention to your actions.  See your impact.  Don’t wait for others to point things out because by then it will be too late!

Do a 360, have the uncomfortable conversations and hear the ‘room for improvement’ suggestions.  There are many tools that can help with this but we make it easier.

Need help getting started?  Contact us for a consultation or an assessment of your culture.

“Self awareness involves deep personal honesty.  It comes from asking and answering hard questions.”

– Stephen Covey

Mike Knapp


Mike has been helping businesses achieve their goals for more than 20 years. He believes there is a better way for business owners and leaders to build their businesses and achieve their big goals. As a Gravitas Impact Premium coach, he leverages the 7 Attributes of Agile Growth™ to simplify the art of strategy and discipline of execution.

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