7 Deadly Sins of Employee Disengagement

Seven Deadly Sins, Indexed

Seven Deadly Sins, Indexed

Welcome back, people pushers.  As we’ve covered in previous posts, there are plenty of ways to demotivate and disengage those pesky employees that try to usurp your Facebook time.  If you are still having problems with them, today we present for your use the 7 Deadly Sins of Employee Engagement.  Try these on for size…


I’m sure this is one your employees know well.  You’ve got the office, the big chair, the laptop that is less than 5 years old and weighs less than a cinder block, the wall full of awards, the nice car and the paycheck inflated to the point it almost matches your ego.  Let’s face it.  They see you rollin’, and they hatin’.  Time to turn it against them.

Start making offhand comments about the leaders in your organization (or better yet, outside the organization).  Speak generally at first, but eventually you’ll want to drill down on a couple of things.  Specifically, their ability to find/attract/retain great talent, and their ability to weed out under-performers.  This will send the dual signal that what you have on the team isn’t quite good enough, and that you really wish you knew how to get rid of them.  If anyone questions you on this front, just assure them that you didn’t mean THEM, but that you’re certain they know who you DID mean.  Then take notes on any names they mention.


Nothing motivates a top performer like knowing they are valued.  A close second is surrounding them with other great players.  So how do you chase them away?  It’s easier than you think.  You’ll want to start by immediately absorbing as many other departments or persons as possible into your kingdom.  Make sure that key player hears you really value them, then do your best to lose them in the shuffle.

Another method is to acquire as many projects as possible to which they can be assigned.  Overload them to the point they have no realistic chance of performing well on everything.  If they ask for help, tell them they need to manage people’s expectations (but don’t address the overload by any means).  Once you see failure on a project, make sure to point out the drop in the quality of their work.  Be sure to ignore any projects on which they are still performing well.


The twin sibling of Gluttony, Greed is all about amassing assets without sharing.  Greed has several applications that making hoarding a useful disengagment tool:

  • Collect high profile, high impact projects.  Then refuse to let you team near them.
  • Ensure a robust budget for training and development, but deny any request to use those funds.  Then buy yourself something nice with the excess budget at year’s end.  Perhaps a fur coat?
  • Acquire high end talent with no specific job for them to do.  This will not only frighten your current team, it will make sure that the new talent gets hooked as well.  Are they going to tell another potential employer that they took the job, did nothing for a year and then left?  Not likely.
  • Ideas are fair game as well.  Get your team to feed you their innovative ideas, then catalog them and file away.  You never know when you might need them.  But make sure to remove anyone else’s name from the note.  Can’t be too careful!


It’s not what you are thinking.  That kind of shenanigan can get your straight fired and is never OK.  Instead, open speculate in a non-threatening way about others.  Who’s single, who’s married-but-looking, who’s married-but-not-for-long.  These speculations work best on large teams, so there is little chance of the discussion coming back to you.  And if it does come back, make sure you’ve couched your comments in such a way that you can claim you were defending their honor, not besmirching it.


You’ve got lots of it, right?  Look at everything you’ve built!  Make sure you share that with the team.

  • Display your diplomas on the wall.  All of them.  From kindergarten on up.  (Bonus points if you forbid the rest of the team from decorating their area with such things, citing a “clean desk and clean wall” policy.)
  • Ensure your name goes on everything.  If you employee somehow manages to get something past you for others to see, make sure you jump in and elaborate on your role as the “project champion.”  Then get them pulled from the project for going around you.  Chump.
  • Throw a party.  Design the food and beverage choices around your specific wants and likes.  Celery juice and rutabaga puffs for everyone!


As a manager, you may be expected to lead from time to time.  Don’t give in!  Always remember that your team is there to do the work, and you are there to take the credit!  To that end, make sure you are either traveling, working from home or in critical off site meetings any time a serious project is coming due.  You don’t want to accidentally get suckered into contributing.


An all time favorite.  Be prepared to breathe fire down the neck of anyone who…

  • Contradicts you in front of others.
  • Contradicts you in private.
  • Fails to complete a task you have assigned them.
  • Fails to complete a task you didn’t tell them about.
  • Under-produces.
  • Over-produces.
  • Suggests improvements.
  • Fails to suggest improvements.
  • Sits quietly and takes instruction well.  It’s the quiet ones you have to watch.

What else is left?

Plenty.  But most of them are industry or role specific.  Sure, some people can just send employees down into a manhole for a few hours, but not everyone is so lucky.  Always watch out for great opportunities to demotivate and disengage your team.  It doesn’t take as much effort as you think, and the results can last long past the time any one employee leaves.

***I am happy to report that no one to date has taken any of this advice.  But it’s sometimes nice to see it in print.  If you get yourself in these situations, know that taking this advice is likely going to mean losing your employees.  But you knew that, right?***


  1. Love this post. Unfortunately, I have seen some of these sins of employee disengagement in action and could even pin a name on one or two. A book, that also talks about what not to do as a leader, is The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni. Do you know it?

  2. The sin-legend at the top is fantastic and super creative. Its nice to look out the other side of the window, instead of the don’t list, here is the do list…Very well done.

    • Thanks, Chris. I wish I could take credit for it. I highly suggest clicking through to the source site, Indexed. The author does this type of illustration quite a bit. This one stuck with me, and seemed appropriate for the material.


  1. […] Dwane Lay of LeanHRBlog.com gives us 7 Deadly Sins of Employee Disengagement at http://leanhrblog.com/7-deadly-sins/ […]

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