Five Reasons Why Employees Feel Disconnected at Work

  • Author: Melanie Haniph

In our latest research report, we identified two distinct groups of employees—Connected Employees and Disconnected Employees. We found that while employees in both groups desired connection, more reported feeling disconnected than connected. Additionally, our analysis identified several key characteristics of the employee experience that help to explain the lack of connection most employees feel at work.

Why the Majority of Employees are Disconnected

As we describe in our report, employees who feel disconnected from their work, coworkers, and the broader organization often have a poor employee experience, resulting in lower engagement and productivity. Some feel so frustrated with the lack of connection that it makes them want to leave their organization. 

Here’s what we found are the leading causes:

1. A lack of trust

Trust is at the heart of every great relationship. But employees who feel disconnected at work are far less likely than Connected Employees to say they trust the people they work with every day. Only 50% of Disconnected Employees in our survey said they trusted coworkers on their team, compared to 87% of Connected Employees. They were even less trusting of others in the organization, specifically Disconnected Employees reported:

  • 42% trust their direct manager
  • 24% trust employees on other teams
  • 21% trust senior leadership
  • 18% trust Human Resources

2. Feeling undervalued

The Disconnected Employees in our survey were significantly less likely to say their organization was taking action to help them feel valued as a whole person. Furthermore, feeling undervalued was one of the top reasons they said they planned to leave their organization. Instead of feeling appreciated for the perspectives, ideas, and uniqueness they bring to the organization, Disconnected Employees said their organization cares more about their productivity and what they do vs. who they are.

3. Dissatisfaction with total rewards

While most employees value total rewards such as compensation, health and wellness benefits, and recognition, Disconnected Employees were less likely to say their organization offered many of these rewards. For example, few Disconnected Employees said their organization offered a competitive salary (28%) and recognition programs (36%), compared to 57% and 52% of Connected Employees, respectively. As a result, not many Disconnected Employees (28%) could agree that total rewards made them feel valued by the organization.

4. More connection blockers

Disconnected Employees were more likely to cite a variety of obstacles to connection at work, ranging from the size and structure of their organization to its culture and internal policies. They were also more likely to say there were individuals in their organization who did things to undermine a sense of connection, further contributing to their overall lack of trust in coworkers and company leaders.

5. A lackluster manager-employee relationship

In a Gallup survey, most employees who left their organization said their manager could have done something to prevent it. This finding is concerning for the Disconnected Employees in our study, as many described a poor relationship with their manager. They were less likely than Connected Employees to say they had regular check-ins with their manager or received positive feedback. Additionally, Disconnected Employees said they were uncomfortable discussing their ideas and future goals with their manager, suggesting they may also feel uncomfortable sharing their thoughts about leaving.

Disconnected Employees Don’t Have to Stay That Way

Despite the many obstacles preventing Disconnected Employees from forming deep and meaningful connections in the workplace, there are several ways organizations can create more opportunities for them to make those connections. In our report, The Imbalanced State of Employee Connections at Work, we discuss specific actions HR and internal communications teams can take to boost trust, improve workplace communications, and cultivate a super-connected workforce.

To learn more, check out the full employee connection report and follow us on LinkedIn.

Get Insights Monthly

Related Insights