Americans Can't Stand Their Bosses, and Bosses Admit They're Phoning it in

Half of all U.S. employees have quit to get away from bad bosses, and managers report they're not engaged in the workplace, Gallup data shows

Photograph: Getty Images

If you're miserable in the workplace, take solace in the fact that you've got a lot of company.

Half of all U.S. employees have at some point in their career quit their jobs to get away from their boss, according to a new Gallup study of 7,272 adults. If workers loathe their higher-ups, the feeling may be mutual. Gallup also found that managers weren't thrilled with their work situation, either. Just 35 percent of U.S. managers said they felt engaged on the job. Fifty-one percent said they weren't engaged, and 14 percent confessed that they actively tune out at work.

The numbers suggest that there are relatively few Americans who don't feel like they're corporate cogs straight out of a Kafka novel. "I'm continually surprised at these numbers—they're a lot lower than they need to be," says Jim Harter, Gallup's chief scientist of workplace management and well-being.

Unhappy workplaces aren't just pushing employees toward gloomy happy hour drinks. "When managers aren't engaged, it affects their employees, which in turn affects productivity, whether people stay or leave, how often they're absent, and then ultimately productivity," Harter says. Plus, given how much time Americans spend at work, hating your job can take a hit on your overall well-being, Harter added. Being stressed out at work can heighten the risk of developing depression, anxiety, and obesity, a 2007 study found. And when the cause of that stress is a terrible coworker, your likelihood of quitting soars.

One possible fix: Be more selective about who gets promoted. "Obviously, organizations can't just change out all their managers in the short term, but they can control who they name [as manager] next, based on their natural talent to motivate others and engage workers," Harter says. 

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