Too-much-of-a-good-thing? Is employee engagement always constructive and disengagement always destructive?

Amanda S. Davis*, Beatrice I.J.M. Van der Heijden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: An employee engagement/disengagement typology is presented to visually illustrate their possible constructive and destructive effects within the workplace, and identify some of the contextual drivers that may lead to these occurrences. Design/methodology/approach: A narrative literature review was conducted during 2020–2023 to gain a comprehensive overview of employee engagement and disengagement processes and theories since 1990. Content analysis enabled the findings to be grouped into their destructive and constructive behavioural effects to produce a new typology. Findings: The typology shows that not all employee engagement is constructive and that not all disengagement is destructive. This more accurately reflects organisational life. Destructive employee engagement in particular, demonstrates that there can be “too-much-of-a-good-thing”. Research limitations/implications: The typology may help inform future research designs to further understand the impact of contextual factors on both constructs, the pluralist interests involved and which interventions are likely to encourage constructive engagement and disengagement within specific contexts. Practical implications: It is recommended that employee engagement and disengagement are incorporated into leadership and management training and that practices to foster constructive employee engagement (or permit temporary constructive disengagement to allow recovery) endorse the principles of mutuality and reciprocity. Interventions to prevent destructive employee engagement and disengagement are also advisable, particularly when there are adverse internal and external contextual issues which risk disengagement. Originality/value: The typology is the first to classify engaged and disengaged behaviours within the workplace across two dimensions. In doing so, this helps to evaluate employee engagement and disengagement theory by challenging the normative assumptions held within these constructs. This categorisation more accurately represents both constructs and visually illustrates that within the workplace, not only is employee engagement sometimes destructive but also that sometimes disengagement is constructive. Furthermore, it demonstrates that purposive destructive employee disengagement responses may be passive or active.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1950-1976
Number of pages27
JournalManagement Decision
Issue number6
Early online date28 May 2024
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2024


  • Constructive employee disengagement
  • Constructive employee engagement
  • Destructive employee disengagement
  • Destructive employee engagement
  • Employee disengagement
  • Employee engagement


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