written by
Sean Thomas

How to Handle a Disengaged Member of Your Project Team

Project Management 4 min read

Project management is no mean feat. As a project manager, you are required to oversee the details of the project and to also ensure that none of your team members feel disengaged or dissatisfied in any way possible.

All new employees and team members enter your workplace bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. There is a lot of optimism and excitement in their eyes, as they look to not only meet your expectations but also set new standards and objectives. The environment itself is pretty pleasant at the start, as managers are supportive, coworkers can be welcoming and there is a go-getter approach.

However, once the initial honeymoon phase goes away, employees start to experience the monotony of the work, the pressure of the projects and everything else that comes in between. The excitement fades away and employees are left disengaged and uninterested.

Disengaged employees can be a major cause of concern for project managers working on important projects. Project managers know that the deadlines they have set and the timelines they endeavor to meet can only be possible if they have motivated employees working on them. The timelines have been set with employee motivation in mind, and without the same approach from employees, it will be difficult to live up to them.

Photographer: Campaign Creators | Source: Unsplash

In this article, we take a look at the reasons behind disengagement in the workplace today and what project managers can do to handle disengaged members of their project team. Stay with us as we look to jump deep down into this conundrum.

What Causes Employee Disengagement?

Employee disengagement isn’t something that can happen overnight. Employee disengagement is basically a problem that is deep-rooted in the behavior of the management team and how employees are treated.

While it is hard to pinpoint a specific reason for disengagement within employees in the workplace, we can tell that disengagement is primarily caused due to the lack of the following:

· Recognition

· Feedback

· Communication

· Work flexibility

· Employee development

· Trust

· Teamwork

· Control

· Autonomy

In some cases, disengagement can also come from the burden placed on employees. Employees feel like they will collapse under the pressure and eventually get disengaged from the happenings in the workplace.

Ways to Handled Disengaged Employees

As a project manager, it is your responsibility to identify disengaged employees and then work on minimizing the reasons behind their disengagement. We look at these reasons here and help you understand the causes behind them.

Pinpoint Poor Performance

The very first step towards handling disengagement in your project team is understanding that it exists. Disengagement is visible through the poor performance of employees in your team. You should be able to tell where employees perform poorly and where they fall short.

Photographer: John Schnobrich | Source: Unsplash

Poor performance can show itself in the inability of employees to meet deadlines, their inability to own up to mistakes, and their general lack of concern to duties and responsibilities that come under them in the workplace.

Uncover Frustrations

The next step in the process is to uncover ongoing frustrations that are making employees behave the way that they do. Disengagement does come from frustration and team members may feel frustrated doing what they do. Managers and coworkers will want team members to pick up their game, but the underlying frustrations may lead to failure.

Skip the Small Talk

When it comes to handling disengaged members in your project team, you should directly get to the crux of the problem. The right way to go about the problem is to call the team member to meet you, and calmly explain just why you are meeting. Let them know where they are falling short and what needs to be done to rectify the problem if the employee wants to remain within the organization.

As a manager, you should address the problem head on and skip the small talk. Make sure that you speak to them individually and not in a group so that they don’t feel ganged up. Address the problem with them immediately and let them know the reason behind the meeting. Don’t enter the endless labyrinth of small talk, only to find out that you cannot get out of it anymore.

Listen Carefully and Ask Questions

Communication is two-fold, especially if it is happening with a disengaged employee. As a manager, you should look eager to know what is going wrong with them, rather than just giving verdicts, warnings and whatnot. Let your employees do most of the talking and take pauses in between so that they know it is their turn to talk.

Don’t immediately share your interpretations, but ask them questions. Ask about their frustrations and how they would react if these frustrations were removed today? Asking these questions can prove to be helpful, as it sets a template for the future. You would know what your employees expect from you and just how you can meet their expectations.

Close with a Commitment to Improve

Organizing and conducting a meeting with a disengaged employee can be a tough and awkward job. Knowing the complexity of the job, you should make sure that you close the meeting with a commitment to improve and better your performance. The last thing you want is for your disengaged project team member to feel even more disengaged after the meeting and to continue their habits even after it.

Make sure you reach a conclusion during the meeting and you finish it on a positive note. Let them know what you think is the solution to their problem and address their frustrations.

Disengaged project team members can be a pain to handle, but with the process mentioned above, you can get them to feel important and engaged again. Just be compassionate and understand the frustrations they have, even if they don’t sound wrong to you.

Project Management