27 Signs You Are Disengaged At Work And Might Not Know it Yet (part one)


Gallup reports that nearly 70% of U.S. employees are not engaged at work.

  • Are you a part of that 70%?
  • Do you know someone at work whom you suspect might be disengaged?
  • Does this describe any of your direct reports or boss?

The combined cost associated with disengaged employees for U.S. businesses is estimated to be $550+ billion annually. That is a massive chunk of change. Sometimes the signs of disengagement are subtle, so to help you, here are 27 signs that you are disengaged at work:

1.    Do you wake up on Monday and hit the snooze button several times?

On the surface this may seem like a benign behavior, but do you want to sleep more instead of adventuring into your workday with a sense of gratitude and enthusiasm ready to take on the next challenge? You may also want to consider getting your cortisol levels checked or go to bed earlier if smashing your snooze button several times is a habit. If you are not sure if you do this consistently, ask your significant other for his or her perspective. 

Here are some other ideas why hitting the snooze button is a bad idea for you.

2.   Do you avoid hanging out with your coworkers outside of work?

Some of you believe in making a clear distinction between professional and personal worlds and I get that; however, if you NEVER hang out with your coworkers outside of work at networking events or mixers or occasionally get invited over for a glass of wine or poker night, maybe you do not really enjoy their company or feel connected to them. And if that’s the case, the odds are high that if you spent a little personal time together, productivity would increase substantially.

Google proactively fosters friends at work

3.   At the end of your week, do you feel completely exhausted?

We all have weeks where we push hard on finishing a big presentation, report, or project, but if you consistently find yourself utterly exhausted at the end of the week, take a step back and figure out why. Where are you investing all of your physical, emotional, cognitive energy? Are the majority of people where you work or on your team also spent? It may signal a need to have a conversation with your manager or HR.

Moreover, if this has been going on for quite some time, it may be time to face your fear and starting networking yourself to your next career move. Life does not need to be this hard – you can work hard and play hard and have energy left over.

Here are some strategies to boost your energy level.

4.   Do you spend most of your weekends executing work projects? 

Do you think that at the end of your life on your deathbed, you’re going to wish you spent another 6 hours at work this weekend? I don’t think so. Of course the higher up you go on the leadership ladder, the more demanding the workload can be and weekends maybe when you do most of your work, but you need to take occasional breaks and recharge your batteries to do your best work.

Here’s an article that addresses why it may be detrimental to your health to work on the weekends and what to do about it. 

5.   Have you stopped exercising because you have too much work to do?

 Exercise is key to your ongoing health and your health dramatically impacts your career performance and your professional marketability. Admittedly, I cut physical activity for the last three years and as a result, gained nearly 60 lbs. At the height of my obesity in 2017, I rang in at a whopping 272 lbs., and even for a guy who is 6’ 2” that is way too much. 

I have lost nearly 30lbs in the last five months and feel excellent; I am primarily walking and on an anti-fungal diet and supplement regime. My doctor plans to put me on a more intense exercise regimen once the remaining 30 lbs. comes off and I'm looking forward to feeling like I'm in my 20s again.

There are so many reasons why exercise can help your career, here a few taken from this HBR article:

  • Improved concentration
  • Sharper memory
  • Faster learning
  • Prolonged mental stamina
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Lower stress
  • Elevated mood

6.   Do you have trouble sleeping at night because you are thinking about work pressures or conflicts?

Sleep is one of the non-optional elements in your life that enable you to function at optimal performance, at work and beyond. It is the only time that your brain has to defrag itself and replenish your entire being. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep for people aged 26 – 64; however, anywhere from 6 to 10 hours may be appropriate. If you are exhausted most days, take an honest look at your sleep patterns: you may need more.

If you find yourself being kept awake at night by replaying that significant conflict at work that you had or you find yourself being exceptionally self-critical, you may want to work on managing your thoughts differently. Having a good friend to process through your conflicts with and challenge your self-critical thoughts can be a literal god-send.

Here are some things you can do to improve your sleeping habits.

 7.   Is your relationship with your boss strained?

The CEO of Gallup, Jim Clifton speaks directly to employers and identifies the primary source of employee turnover – it has to do with the relationship with your boss.  

The single biggest decision you make in your job—bigger than all the rest—is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits—nothing.”

 While it is easy to point the figure at others and blame them for everything bad in a relationship, consider yourself in this equation as well because relationships are not created in a vacuum. Your boss' behavior may not be the sole "opportunity for growth" here. 

For me, it took five different bosses and about 15 years of experience to realize that some things about how I worked were challenging to work with, manage, or lead. It took time and two extremely skilled coaches to beat back my distorted narrative and help me realize how I was connecting and disconnecting in unproductive ways – jumping to conclusions, discounting the positive, and my insane and nearly unbelievably focus on should/must thinking patterns that stemmed from my lack of feeling significance.

Some managers aren’t skilled and prefer to sabotage their direct reports' career, which also ends up undermining their leadership journey, but you cannot “fix” your manager. Focus on your side of the equation and let go of the rest. And when it's time to move on to your next opportunity, foster a appreciative attitude about the situation and your manager for what they've taught you - the good, bad, and ugly. 

8.   Have you stopped attending local, regional, national, or global events connected to your profession?

 Why have you stopped going to these events? Are you bored with the people, the content, or the venue? Are you too busy at work? Has your employer discouraged you from going to these events because they want to squeeze every drop of productivity out of you? Here’s the bottom-line – your isolating behavior is inexcusable if you are going to grow a successful career – your boredom, your busyness, and your discouragement are not good enough reasons to not go to these events.

Every mentor, coach, or career advisor worth their salt will tell you that staying at the cutting edge of your profession can only help you advance your career and developing relationships with your colleagues is good insurance against long-term unemployment. You never know when you those networking contacts may help you if your current position gets transitioned or your industry growth starts to wane.

Here are seven reasons to attend conferences.

9.   Are you unsure where your company is headed and how your role fits into that future?

 Your brain loves certainty, granularity, and specificity – it thrives on it, so if you are not sure where your organization is going, you’re likely to experience a threat response of fight, flight, or freeze. Do you know what your default threat responses are? If you don't ask a few trusted people around you and they'll share with you their perspective. Couple this uncertainty with a lack of understanding of how your role fits into the bigger picture and how it contributes to the bottom-line and you’re sure to start to separate from your strengths, your team, your boss, and the organization – disengagement is beginning.

At the same time, if you’re the leader of the organization, you know that crystal clear clarity is not always feasible, so how do you manage or even push into this ambiguity? One recommendation Dr. Larkin of the Applied Neuroscience Institute gives is by focusing on your experience of positive emotions – gratitude, peace, love, joy, and hope. When your threatened your playing to your weaknesses, but you when you're experiencing positive emotions, you can more easily access and leverage your strengths. 

Strive to get the clarity your brain wants and if you cannot get clear, get clear on the emotions you want to experience. The positive ones help you build a successful career; the negative ones tend to sabotage your success.

Stay tuned next week for the next nine reasons that you are disengaged at work. 

Is Your Job Stressing You Out?


Maybe you know what it feels like to be sitting at your desk, staring at your screen as it stares right back at you waiting for you to call that hot sales lead, tackle that challenging project, or finish up that report that your boss wanted by the end of the day.

Maybe you start to feel the heaviness of guilt creep in about how little you are doing and how blocked you feel. This feeling creeps into your psyche and creates a negative spiral of energy that has cortisol pumping through brain and adrenaline pumping through your veins. You start to feel on edge. You might even feel like a volcanic eruption is brewing and you do not even really know why.

While your experience of burnout and stress may be different from this, back in 2015, the American Psychology Association identified that the three major sources of stress among U.S. adults are money, workplace responsibilities, and family obligations. Followed closely by number four, health issues and concerns. Couple this statistic with the estimate that anywhere from 75% - 90% of all visits to a primary care doctor are stress related and you start to understand what may be going on.

More than likely the stress that you experience at work isn’t because you are physically in harm’s way all day long or even some of the day long. More than likely, you are experiencing psychological stress as a result of your body going into a fight, flight, or freeze mode. You may have a dry mouth as your saliva flow decreases, your muscles may become tenser or start trembling, your pupils might begin dilating, your lungs might start gasping for air, or your heart rate might beat faster or harder.

All of these responses are psychological threats that connect with what meaning you are making in a particular situation that is likely not life-threatening. Most of you have not honestly been in harm’s way at work, but your brain and body were made to protect themselves from perceived threats, and it is merely operating out of its perspective of what is going to keep you alive and well. It is resorting to its current set-point, but it wants to evolve to a new a different way to interpret the world.

Here are ten reasons why your job might be stressing and burning you out:

  1. Are you staring at a screen for too long? As the Washington Post reports, “screen induced eye strain has an official name: computer vision syndrome.” Your eyes function best when replenished with natural tears, so it makes sense why staring at a screen is making them dry and red. Further, when your mobile device or computer screen is too close to your face, your eyes turn in slightly which also makes them tired and fatigued. You can reduce the strain by looking away from your screen while on the phone, closing your eyes while listening to that webinar, or blinking more.
  2. Are you physically moving around at all? Your body is not designed to sit all day long and you have probably heard the adage, “sitting is the new smoking.” Moving around in your seat or going for a 5-minute walk can lift your mood, reduce your stress and fatigue, and allow your brain to make connections that it could not make when it was looking at that Excel spreadsheet or lengthy research paper. You might be thinking that you do not have time to move around because you have so much work to do, but I would wager that by being a little bit more active, your productivity while at your desk will go up significantly. For more ideas, read this article.
  3. Are you drinking enough water? My wife is a nurse, and for years she told me that one of the top reasons people end up in the hospital is due to dehydration. When I work from my home office, she’s always bringing me cups of water. Moreover, I have struggled a bit with water, because when I drink sufficient water, it necessitates more frequent trips to the restroom, which means that I lose precious time and my productivity plummets. However, I have found this to be a myth that I tell myself and believe. Here’s what the Mayo Clinic says about how much water you need daily.
  4. Are you eating healthful foods? I have a sweet tooth. When I was growing up, my grandparents stocked their basement freezer with delicious ice cream and novelty desserts. I binged on these treats back then because they were delicious and I had a blazing metabolism that seemed to keep up. Now, not so much. Sugar is a gradual killer and is a gateway to obesity and diabetes. In fact, recent research shows that sugar can cause cognitive decline which leads to Alzheimer’s. Moreover, the last thing you need to be doing to your brain at work is feeding it foods that break it down instead of build it up.
  5. Are you interacting with other people? The quality of the connections that we build with professionals at work plays a vital role in our health. Some of these interactions can be negative, and some can be positive. In her research, Barbara Fredrickson emphasizes the importance of at least a 3 to 1 ratio of positive to negative events to maintain a healthy connection and a 5 to 1 ratio for optimum connection. Here is some additional information from Psychology Today that speaks to the health benefits of socializing.
  6. Are you learning something new? Your brain is plastic. No, not like Tupperware® or Rubbermaid®, but plastic in the sense that it is continuously changing and growing. Neuroscience calls this neuroplasticity. The brain loves to change, and newness, novelty, and challenges give it the growth that it is looking for. So, take that college class, attend that professional training, complete that Lynda® course, or learn a new skill to feed your brain and make you more valuable to your employer. Read more about neuroplasticity here.
  7. Are you taking regular breaks? The business environment today is one of constant change, chaos, and seemingly endless options and permutations that you could do. With all of these options, decision fatigue can creep in and rob you of energy, so take a step back, take a break, and re-focus on your long-term goals. For even more reasons to take a break at work, read this article.
  8. Are you clear on your priorities? Being clear on what is most important to you seems like an obvious thing that you have checked the box on a long time ago. However, over time subtle shifts occur in your workday without you taking the time to reevaluate that proven process, pet project, or prize product that you believe to be the most significant. It may have been your primary focus before; it may not be right now. In his book, Growing the Positive Mind, Dr. Larkin gives a clear framework for understanding and methodology for increasing the clarity, belief, and openness to help you move towards what you truly want. Buy it on Amazon here.
  9. Do you believe that you can accomplish your work? As mentioned above, limiting beliefs can block your productivity at work. If your self-talk keeps saying “that project is not perfect yet,” or “you will never have what it takes to pull off X,” even if you are clear about what you want, you will experience the added friction that slows you down and decreases the quality of your work. Remember, your brain is a tricky organ, it is tendency is to cling to false beliefs even when it knows better. Read more about this phenomenon here.
  10. Are you pushing too hard to get your work done? The American business culture prioritizes productivity and goal-setting, and while those are excellent things, sometimes this leads an employee like you to put too much pressure on yourself or your team that the intensity starts to backfire or blow up in your face. One way to tell that you may be pushing too hard is that if most of the social invitations that your friends, family, or kids are inviting you to you are unable to attend and your excuse is that you are “too busy.” A re-evaluation may help you loosen up the death-grip of this overwhelming pressure that you are putting on yourself. Here are some other indicators that it is time to lighten up.

To wrap up, if your job is wearing you out and you feel exhausted at the end of your workday with no energy to invest in the people and things you enjoy the most, it is time to get off that treadmill and make some changes that will bring you greater fulfillment and joy. Because, as Shawn Achor says, “Success does not lead to happiness; rather, happiness leads to success.”

Moreover, if you are tired, grumpy, and ready to explode most days, you are probably on the fast track to derailing yourself and your career. I urge you to stop and reevaluate now before it gets harder to turn your career around.