Are You Engaged, Disengaged, or Actively Disengaged at Work?

Employee Engagement

Whether you’re engaged or disengaged at work is important for so many different reasons. From your point of view, the more engaged you are at work, the more fulfilled you will feel as a result, which will have a huge impact on your overall well-being. On the other hand, from the perspective of your employer, it also matters whether you are engaged at work. After all, employee disengagement is associated with substantial losses in productivity, profits, team morale, and staff retention.

Yet, there is a phenomenon that is even worse than employee disengagement (for both employees and employers), and that’s active disengagement. This is characterized by strong feelings of dislike for one’s job and deep unhappiness as a result. Moreover, the disengagement is “active” because these employees act out their unhappiness at work.

It’s important to ask yourself if you are engaged, disengaged, or actively disengaged at work and to be frank about your situation. Staying in a job in which you are disengaged or actively disengaged is going to be detrimental to your mental health and career development in the long run. The truth is there will be a career path that will energize you. If you can discover it, it will be of great benefit to both you and the organization you work for.

Most People Aren’t Engaged at Work

If you don’t feel engaged at work, you’re certainly not alone. According to a Gallup poll published in 2016, only 8 percent of employees in the UK are engaged at work, which is down from 17 percent in 2012. This contrasts with the US, where 33 percent of employees (about four times as many) are engaged at work. The 2016 data also showed that, in the UK, 73 percent of those surveyed are “not engaged” (or disengaged), while the remaining 19 percent are “actively disengaged.” (We will look at the definitions of these terms in the next section.)

Employee Engagement Disengaged

The results from the Gallup poll demonstrate that the UK has a massive problem when it comes to employee engagement. We may not be the worst-performing country (for example, only 3 percent of employees in France feel engaged at work), but when compared to the US, we can see how significant the issue is. In any case, even if 33 percent of employees were engaged in the UK, like in the US, that wouldn’t resolve the problem, as it would still mean that most people aren’t engaged at work.

The Difference Between Engagement, Disengagement, and Active Disengagement

Employee Engagement Active Disengagement

Now that we have a sense of the state of employee engagement in the UK and elsewhere, let’s flesh out the definitions of engagement, disengagement, and active disengagement, as this will help to clarify why employee engagement is so important.

  • Employee engagement: When employees are engaged at work, they are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work. These employees help to foster the growth of the company they work for through their passion, commitment, and loyalty. These qualities boost productivity and drive performance and innovation. Engaged employees enjoy their work, find meaning in it, and put a significant amount of effort and focus into what they do.
  • Employee disengagement: If you are not engaged at work, then this means you have no emotional commitment to your work. You put in the minimum amount of effort required to get your tasks done. As a disengaged employee, you don’t necessarily hate your job, but you don’t particularly like it either. It doesn’t inspire you or feel all too meaningful. When you go into work, you simply go through the motions, which is also called “sleepwalking” during the workday.
  • Active disengagement: When you are actively disengaged at work, you feel miserable and act out your discontent in your words, attitudes, and actions. You take steps to ensure that you don’t perform to the best of your ability; plus, you undermine the performance of others by constantly complaining and refusing to cooperate, which affects team morale, productivity, and the overall success of the company. As an actively disengaged employee, you act out your unhappiness in a resentful way because your workplace needs aren’t being met. If you are actively disengaged at work, then you strongly dislike or hate your job and dread going in each day.

The Importance of Being Engaged at Work

Employee Engagement Importance

If you are disengaged or actively disengaged at work, this is a problem that deserves serious attention. When you don’t care about your job or it makes you miserable, then you are wasting (or ruining) at least half your day for five (or more) days a week. Of course, we all have bills to pay and responsibilities to carry out, but given the implications of doing work that we don’t find meaningful, it seems wise to prioritize the goal of pursuing a fulfilling career path.

When you find a career that resonates with you, you will be able to enjoy your workdays so much more – and this will have ripple effects on the rest of your life. Read on if you’re having a difficult time staying motivated throughout your job search.

Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer with more than 8 years' experience writing and blogging. His main areas of interest include mental health and psychology and using the insights from these fields to better inform his writing on productivity. You can find more of his work at