It is an incredible fail that only one-third of us are engaged in our work.
The cost of lost productivity, performance and innovation due to disengagement, detachment and distrust is staggering. Disengaged workers cost their organizations $3,400 a year for every $10,000 in annual salary. As a result, American businesses squander almost $400 billion of productivity every year.
An engaged workforce literally pays dividends. Studies find productivity is 15 to 20 percent higher than rival organizations (think Costco vs. Wal-Mart), profits are at least 10 percent greater, and these companies return 22 percent more to shareholders (a great data set is available here).
Why ‘Sustainable Engagement’ Is So Rare
A 2012 Towers Watson survey and report refers to “sustainable engagement,” which it breaks into three stages: engagement, enablement, and energy. The report defines engagement as belief in the company mission, an emotional connection to work roles, and a desire to take on discretionary tasks. Enablement occurs when leaders eliminate barriers and provide the resources their employees need to be successful. Workers surveyed defined good energy as “a workplace that promotes well-being,” which is a nice way to say “treat me with respect instead of an expense.”
None of this information is new or earthshaking. So, why do most organizations fail to create sustainable engagement at the macro level? Based on decades of work experience, and coaching leaders stuck in low performing companies, several patterns emerge:
- Lack of awareness (or measurement) of employee sentiment in the C-suite
- Denial and blame shifting (often directed downward at mid-level managers) after employees are surveyed
- The executive leadership team does not trust employees (paternalism)
- Leaders’ behavior reflects poorly on the organization’s mission (walking the talk)
- Lack of transparency regarding how and why decisions are made
How To Protect Your Sanity
When you feel trapped in a demotivating work environment, do not sink into the mire with your co-workers. This never results in a better work environment. What it causes is stress, frustration, and additional disengagement. Instead of losing sleep, gaining weight and boring your friends and loved ones with tales of woe about the office, take positive action to reduce stress and stay productive.
- Remember this is not about you, it is about company culture, do not take dysfunction personally
- Spend as little time as possible with negative people (especially at work)
- Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, meditate, have family time or whatever brings you happiness
- When you leave work – take your brain with you. Ruminating on your dysfunctional workplace at home will only make you feel worse
- Vote with your feet. Make plans to leave and follow through when the time is right