Before suspecting disengagement, it is wise to check if the employee’s behavior is not a low in motivation or fatigue than can be mistaken for disengagement.
Everybody can have a period of low motivation, be discouraged, worried or just tired. It should not negatively influence the job, but humans are humans with their ups and downs and it’s not that easy to let private trouble stay home.
A low in motivation is not necessarily a lack of interest and involvement but if it is, the latter probably are more consequences than causes.
To help this employee to recover, it is necessary to understand what is behind this mood. The best is letting him/herself express any grievances and frustrations. This first step, backed by management’s true listening and refraining from justifying or responding immediately, is very important. In most cases it lets the pressure out for calmer dialog and searching for solutions.
It sometimes happens that while verbalizing their trouble, people not only feel better but also find a way to overcome it or realize it isn’t all that bad.
Managers don’t have all the answers and solutions to everything but taking time to listen and take into account the employee’s trouble is a first step to improvement, showing empathy and respect.
Coaches use to ask the coached what simple step, in their opinion, could improve the situation? If the proposed step is really simple and acceptable, make it.
Periodical small meeting face to face, asking the employee to come up with the simple next step shows the manager’s attention and care but also that the manager is not going to take the burden all on his/her shoulders.
The suitable periodicity has to be found, some people just need a breather in some situations. Too frequent meetings could lead employee to feel stressed rather than relieved.
After a while, the situation should improve and return to the normal.