If you're in a workplace in America right now, chances are most of the people around you are pretty checked out. You might even be plodding through the day yourself, counting down the hours until you can fly out the door. Or you're doing your very best to make your unhappiness known to anyone within earshot.
This type of disengagement is outlined by Gallup's latest "State of the American Workplace" report, which has implications for you, your financial bottom line, and the well-being of your company, so I pulled out some charts from the report that I found striking.
First, though, a couple of things to know about the poll: Over the past few decades, Gallup has interviewed over 25 million people across a wide variety of industries and organizations. As for the terms used:
- "Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward."
- "Not engaged employees are essentially checked out. They're sleepwalking through their workday putting time — but not energy or passion — into their work."
- "Actively disengaged employees aren't just unhappy at work; they're busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish."
Let's begin with the most constant and depressing graphic from the Gallup report: two-thirds of working Americans have been disengaged in some form or fashion for the past 12 years.
Not exactly a promising trend. Worse, people who aren't engaged spend much more time experiencing emotions like worry, stress, and pain. According to Gallup, when workers spend more time using their strengths to do work they enjoy or find valuable, the less likely they are to find time to be unhappy. In general, better engagement also leads to less absenteeism and more productivity and profitability.
Pay attention to the turnover numbers, too: the actively disengaged say they're more likely to jump ship if the economy improves.
So aside from making people angry and wanting to flee if not for the recession, Gallup slices engagement by industry, gender, location, and generation, among other segments. The gender breakdown is pretty even, with women being slightly more engaged than men (33% to 28%, respectively). As for how states shake out, Louisiana has the most engaged employees while Idaho has the least.
More startling, however, is what's happening across industries. While managers and executives are the most engaged, they're apparently not doing a great job engaging others. Particularly troubling are the bottom three sectors — service, transportation, and manufacturing or production. Although those workers are the most actively disengaged, it's those very sectors that are either experiencing strong growth in a weak economy (like the service industry) or being hawked as the future of U.S. growth (like manufacturing). And even though managers are doing the best in terms of their own engagement, more than half still aren't especially engaged.
When you look at how the generational numbers break down, the differences appear negligible: millennials and traditionalists are slightly more engaged, while the group in the middle (boomers and Gen X) are the least.
To top that off, American workforce is largely made up of the two least-engaged groups.
And while Gallup reports that 52% of Americans work for companies with 500 or more employees, these aren't the places where engagement is rife.
One other interesting tidbit: it seems that the sweet spot of being engaged involves employees working remotely part of the time.
This brings us to the report's most important point (and biggest "duh" moment): supervisors who focus on an employee's strengths have more engaged employees than those who focus on weaknesses or neglect to focus on much of anything at all.
"Gallup research... shows that these managers from hell are creating active disengagement costing the U.S. an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion annually," writes Gallup chairman and CEO Jim Clifton in the report's introduction. "If your company reflects the average in the U.S., just imagine what poor management and disengagement are costing your bottom line."
Imagine, indeed. Maybe it's time, one more time, for this old chestnut.