Even the most successful professionals can fall victim to the all-too-common problem of feeling disengaged at work. No matter how much you’re impressing your boss, nailing your big presentations, and bringing in clients, you can find yourself checking out mentally and emotionally. Feeling unmotivated, you begin to wonder if you’re even working in the right place. That sense of wondering makes you check out even more. Hello, vicious cycle.
KIDBOX CEO Miki Berardelli is passionate about employee engagement on her own team. “It’s easier than you think to become disengaged at work, even when you believe in the mission of your company and enjoy what you do,” she tells us. “Whether due to personal circumstances, not being challenged, or just general restlessness and needing to recharge, how you show up for work can change before you know it.”
According to Berardelli, these seven behaviors could be your first sign that you’re beginning to mentally check out.
1. You’re multitasking when you shouldn’t be. No one’s doubting your multitasking prowess, but just because you can work on multiple things at once, doesn’t mean you should. If you find yourself trying to multitask in the middle of a meeting or in the final hours before a big deadline (especially if that multitasking involves reading your personal texts or emails), you could be in the early stages of full-on disengagement.
2. You’re more distracted than usual. It’s impossible to be 100 percent focused all the time, but if distractions are creeping into your work life more than ever before, it might be a sign that your brain no longer wants to focus on your job.
3. You’re frequently asking your boss and coworkers to repeat themselves. “Check yourself — are you attentive and involved as a listener? How you involve yourself in your team’s concerns will tell you how committed you are to your common goals and their professional development,” Berardelli says. When you stop paying attention to the people around you, you’re being both detached and rude.
4. You’re sitting back and not getting involved in conversations. Your ability to listen effectively is a good gauge of your engagement in office happenings, but so is your ability to communicate back to your colleagues. Are you quieter than usual in meetings? Are you holding back from responding to bigger picture questions from your supervisor? If so, it might be time to be proactive about getting more involved in conversations and decisions.
5. Your colleagues are checking out when you speak at meetings. “Sometimes, the signs of disengagement can be detected not only in how you’re assessing yourself but also in how others are engaging with you (or not),” Berardelli says. It can be difficult to figure out on your own if your level of engagement is changing, so look for cues from your coworkers. If people stop paying attention to you when it’s your turn to talk in meetings, or if they’re giving you context on projects that you personally worked on in a way that feels a little patronizing, it could be a signal that there’s been a shift in the way you’re behaving on the job.
6. People are coming to you less often for help with projects and decisions. It can be annoying to be the go-to person in the office for big projects or advice, but it’s also a sign that your colleagues value your skills and opinions. If you’ve noticed that people are seeking you out less frequently than they once were, they may have picked up on clues that you’re disconnected before you even realized it was an issue.
7. Your first thought when you start a new project is “Ugh.” “Whether you’re excited to grow from a new challenge or primarily concerned about having something added to your plate is a pretty accurate gut check for how you’re feeling about your work,” Berardelli says.
If this list of subtle signs has given you a sneaking suspicion that you really are detached, read on for Berardelli’s tips on how to motivate yourself again.
- Find new responsibilities. Becoming disengaged is often just a symptom of boredom. Seek out new challenges that will give you the opportunity to grow within your team and company. Shaking up your routine will be good for your attitude.
- Change the culture. Is your company culture bringing you down? You have the power to turn it around — and it’s your responsibility to do so if the culture is to blame for you losing interest in your work. Brainstorm ways to build a healthier, happier team and share them with your boss.
- Express your concerns. It’s okay to be honest about these issues. As long as you have concrete matters to discuss — your interest in exploring new challenges, your concerns that you’re fading to the background during meetings — Berardelli says it’s totally acceptable to bring them to your boss.
- Take a step away. Personal days and vacation days exist for a reason. Sometimes, all you need in order to reengage is a little time away from your cubicle.