Heres a dreary reality from the Gallup organization: Around the world, just 13 percent of workers feel invested in their work and the organizations that employ them. Only about one in eight of us are fully engaged in our jobs and making positive contributions to the workplace.
This finding came out of Gallups recent survey of more than 200,000 employees in more than 140 countries. It is based on answers to 12 questions that Gallup developed during years of research into workplace attitudes and performance.
Most of the workers of the world, particularly those in China, were found to be either not engaged (lacking motivation, giving no extra effort) or actively disengaged (unhappy and spreading their negativity to other workers).
In rough numbers, Gallup says, this translates into 900 million not engaged and 340 million actively disengaged workers around the globe.
The ouch is not as bad in the United States, where Gallup found nearly 30 percent of us psychologically invested our jobs and the companies that employ us.
That still leaves about 54 percent who never go the extra mile and another 18 percent who are unproductive or even working against the organization.
There are lots of ways to interpret this. Here are a few:
For many people, a job is nothing but a means of providing for themselves and their families; they find their bliss elsewhere. Had Gallup conducted this survey 100 years ago, the polling organization might have reached a similar conclusion most workers do whats expected of them and nothing more, with no emotional connection to the companies that employ them.
Some disengagement is likely due to the stagnation of wages, the job insecurity created by advances in technology and globalization, or general cynicism about the workers place in the corporate mission.
And theres always the possibility that people are unhappy at work for other reasons personal problems, or the feeling that the job doesnt match their education or life ambitions.
But if having more engaged workers means more creativity and productivity therefore more success whats the key to recruiting and keeping them?
You can get an idea from some of the things Gallup asks about in its survey: I know what is expected of me at work. At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work. At work, my opinions seem to count. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
Engaged workers are the lifeblood of their organizations, Gallup says. They feel a real connection between the talents and skills they bring to the workplace and the mission of that workplace. They see opportunity for professional development with the arrival of each work week. Someone encourages them.
But for many employers, that probably sounds like a lot of care and feeding. And some bosses are stingy with praise because, they suspect, the worker who gets praise will expect a raise. So workers keep their expectations low.
And that, in my experience from 40 years of work for six different employers, is where the disengagement occurs not simply the absence of praise, but the lack of expectations.
The Gallup survey might confirm what a lot of organizations suspected: Most workers have no ambition; only small groups of the truly engaged make the difference.
But to accept that is to dismiss a lot of human potential and the possibility of a larger workforce engaged in the mission.
The best workplaces keep the bar high for everyone. People like praise (and they like a raise), but most of us like to be challenged. We like to be held to great expectations.