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Submitted by joshyeager on


I have a team member who is productive, but seems almost totally disengaged from his team and the organization. We're a small team in a small company, and everyone else is very engaged and passionate about what we do.

I have two questions: how concerned should I be? And how can I push him to be more engaged?

He usually looks bored unless he is heads-down working on a project. He doesn't contribute in team discussions. He doesn't have much to say in our 1:1s, even after two years working for me. And when he receives suggestions for improvement he accepts them neutrally and may or may not do anything about it.

He is not actively tearing down the team, but a few of his teammates have expressed concern that they don't know whether he is happy or not, and they don't know whether they are working effectively with him.

I am concerned that if he does not feel connected to our team, he is likely to decide when he gets a better offer or he feels more pressure to grow here. And I am also concerned that his apathy may infect others.

Part of that may be that he's a naturally quiet person, but I don't think that's all that's going on. Our team is very friendly and open, and he is still almost as isolated as he was when he started two years ago.

My questions again: How concerned should I be? And how can I push him to be more engaged?


jacksal's picture
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Hi Josh,

Sounds interesting and similar to what I am going through at the moment without going into the details.

What does bored or apathy look like? Facial expression? MT says stop guessing at motivation and intent.

Work relationships require several characteristics like trust, mutual respect and open communication. Teamwork involves building and sustaining work relationships, working with other people using important skills and habits like contributing to group ideas, suggestions and effort, communicating (both giving and receiving) and participating in group decision making, being polite and making an effort to get to know people in and oustside of work.

Sounds like you need to have this conversation with your team member and get their perspective on things as they may not be aware how their behaviour is impacting the team. Then you can work together on options and next steps.As the receiver that can reject it as long as they understand the consequences of not taking corrective action. All the best.

Allan 3365


joshyeager's picture
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Thanks, Allan.

Apathy looks like a neutral facial expression and minimal participation in many contexts. The reason I'm concerned about motivation in this case is the possibility of losing  productive employee.

I talked to him last week and he seemed to appreciate it. He shared some frustations and sounded positive about contributing more. We'll see if it sticks.

Thanks for your advice.


MTFER's picture


I was that person 4 years ago. 

I am good at what I do and "see" the solution quite fast. However I learnt that others did not like being "TOLD" the solution. In addition as a manager I worked directly with Directors, VPs and EVPs. Because I was good at what I do, some Directors were "threatenned" by my knowledge and skills. After a while your doing the same thing day in/day out (with no real progress). 

The issue may be deeper. Ask the person if he is sufficiently challenged. I'm going to guess the person is in a "rut". 

I would give them a project or assignment outside his comfort zone. 


lindagc's picture

Being in a similar situation to the one you describe your team member to be in, I'm going to agree with Chris and say they are most likely bored and in a rut.

The productive, quiet, good at their job person is often just left alone to be quiet, productive and good at their job. And becasue they can still do a good productive job while being bored out of their brains, everyone around them assumes that they must just like doing the same thing day in, day out. They get overlooked for the new projects or the training or the opportunity to learn new skills. The passionate people around them get the praise and the attention even though the passionate people may not be as productive or as good at their job. And after a while the quiet person being good at their job becomes code for the only job they are good at. So they are more likely to be left out of the new projects or challenging roles because after all someone has to be productive and good at their job.

Instead of focusing on your team member and inferring what they are thinking or feeling, try observing the behaviours of the rest of the team and the opportunities afforded to them. Trust me, it can be very lonely if you are a quiet, productive good at your job person stuck in a room full of engaged passionate people who don't actually think of you as being on the team.