The Epidemic of the American Workforce

engagement Dec 17, 2019

The Gallup Organization published its 2017 State of the American Workplace report. Gathering data from more than 195,000 employees and 31 million survey respondents, the report looks at the American workforce. It’s critical reading because it contains critical information about your life.

Did you catch that? I said it contains critical information about your life. But it’s just a work report, you say.

In his book, Work Rules!, Google’s Laszlo Bock writes, “You spend more time working than doing anything else.” More time working than being with your loved ones, more time working than sleeping, more time working than playing, more time than doing anything else. There’s nothing you do that takes more of you.

That’s why the Gallup report contains critical information about your life. In a way, your work is your life, whether you like it or not. But don’t worry, you don’t have to read all 120 pages of the report—I’ve read it for you.

What I found is absolutely remarkable: there’s an epidemic in the American workforce, and you’ll want to know what it is.

First, a definition. Per Gallup, employee engagement is the measure to which “employees are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace." All employees appear somewhere on the engagement spectrum. On one end of the spectrum are engaged employees, then disengaged employees, and on the other end are actively disengaged employees.

Which are you?

Engaged employees feel emotionally connected to their workplace, are excited to be there, and have a sense of purpose in their work. Their job needs are being met for understanding expectations, feeling that they belong, and growing in meaningful ways. They’re all in, enthusiastically!

Disengaged employees, on the other hand, “may be productive but are not psychologically connected.” They show up and get work done, but they don’t get meaning or fulfillment from the work they do. They have important unmet needs in the workplace and because of this, they’re partly in and partly out. Meh.

Actively disengaged employees are the saddest and most dangerous of employees. They’re “unhappy with the work situation and insist on sharing their unhappiness with others.” Not only are they psychologically disconnected, but by their bad attitudes and negative talk, these employees threaten the health of the workplace. They’re dragging others down with them. Bah humbug!

So which type of worker are you?

If our readers are like the American workforce, then here’s how you will answer:

  • 33% of you are engaged at your workplace
  • 51% of you are disengaged at your workplace
  • 16% of you are actively disengaged at your workplace

Herein lies the epidemic in the American workforce. If you add up the disengaged and actively disengaged, it’s 67%.

That means two thirds of us aren’t involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to our workplaces. Two thirds of us are spending most of our time disconnected, unhappy, and uninspired. We're trading precious time with loved ones and our dreams and the things that inspire us and living from purpose, and slowly snuffing out the time we have left. And for what?

In a way, your work is your life. If you're not happy with how you're spending it, change the way you work. How can you do that?

I have some ideas.


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