The idea of employee engagement receives a lot of lip service.

Employees who are engaged will deliver better experiences to your customers, leading to increased retention, improved referral rates, and more revenue overall. Hurrah!

But what happens when your organization is structured to actively disengage your employees?

Most leaders don’t even know this is happening. They look at numbers like employee retention or the latest employee survey results of the one-through-five rankings, like “I feel I’m contributing in my role” and decide their employees are just fine, thank you very much.

Engagement is a tricky thing. It’s emotional and dependent on the very last experience an employee might have – with you, with his or her boss, with peers, with an irate customer. These simple moments add up to an employee giving her best or sharing his worst.

Here are just a few common ways you might accidentally be disengaging your team:

1) You’ve stopped asking for opinions.

It’s strange how obsessed we are with acquisition, whether it’s for customers or employees. We spend so much money and time getting the perfect one to walk in the door. In those early days, we might ask for a lot of feedback. “Is everyone here treating you well?” “Are you getting up to speed?” “Do you have any questions?” “What do you think of it here?”

After a while, the employee seems to settle in, and we stop asking what he thinks. We stop inquiring about comfort and learning and feedback.

If leaders stop asking, the employee can stop telling. This means the same superstar from those early days stops communicating. Instead, he feels his voice isn’t heard and he starts mentally logging the days until he can get a new job.

2) You ask for feedback, but it goes nowhere.

Sharing the same comments on the employee survey quarter after quarter can start to feel futile if no changes are made. If the comments are not even acknowledged, that’s a double whammy. The employee begins to feel as if she is yelling into a canyon. Nobody is listening, so what’s the point?

3) Being honest isn’t worth it.

It sure seems like sometimes we punish honesty. Honest feedback, the kind that is sometimes painful to hear but always important to gather, can lead to all sorts of unintended consequences for employees who are willing to share it.

I once saw a whole row of agents cower under the wrath of a supervisor who had just returned from a meeting with Human Resources regarding specific feedback about him. He returned from that meeting not willing to change, but willing to punish. It was the first and last time anyone communicated honestly about the type of leader he was. Why go through the consequence if nothing would change? Instead, employee turnover was a continuous challenge.

4) Praise goes unnoticed.

It’s easy to focus on the negative. But what if your employees ARE improving with feedback? If the positive changes go unmentioned, it’s easy to feel neglected.

Customers and others who offer praise should have a place to do so where it will be recognized. Saying to the agent “You did a good job,” is great, but stating it where it can be collected and shared is even better. If an employee works hard to correct a behavior, but only hears about it as a criticism, that’s a quick way to disengage an otherwise valuable member of your team.

Nobody sets out to disengage people.

But that’s sort of the point. If we don’t think about it, it’s easy for complacency to take over. Once that happens, disengagement is a given.

Take the steps you need to understand and appreciate what it takes to truly engage your team. Your customers, your superstars and your stress level will all benefit from it!