Study: 'Active disengagement' on the job costs America billions

Los Angeles TimesJune 20, 2013 

Illustration by Chris Ware | Staff

Seven out of 10 workers have "checked out" at work or are "actively disengaged," according to a recent Gallup survey.

In its ongoing survey of the American workplace, Gallup found that only 30 percent of workers are "were engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace." Although that equals the high in engagement since Gallup began studying the issue in 2000, it is overshadowed by the number of workers who aren't committed to performing at a high level — which Gallup says costs companies money.

The poll, released last week, examined worker engagement from 2010 to 2012. The previous poll period covered 2008 through 2010.

The survey classifies three types of employees among the 100 million people in America who hold full-time jobs. The first is actively engaged, which represents about 30 million workers. The second type of worker is "not engaged," which accounts for 50 million. These employees are going through the motions at work.

The third type, labeled "actively disengaged," hates going to work. The report says these workers, about 20 million, undermine their companies with their attitude.

"The general consciousness about the importance of employee engagement seems to have increased in the past decade," said Jim Harter, Gallup's chief scientist for workplace management and well-being. "But there is a gap between knowing about engagement and doing something about it in most American workplaces."

Gallup estimates that workers who are actively disengaged cost the United States as much as $550 billion in yearly economic activity. The level of employee engagement in the past decade has been largely stagnant, according to researchers.

The report found that different age groups and those with higher education levels reported more discontent with their workplace. Baby boomers, for instance, are more likely to be "actively disengaged" than other age groups. Employees with college degrees are also more likely to be running on autopilot at work.

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