Employee (Un)Engagement: Unhappy Employees Are Costing You Billions

70 percent of American workers are unhappy at work and it’s costing businesses billions of dollars per year. Find out what a recent survey says about the cost of unhappy employees.


Gallup recently reported on the state of the American workplace, and it’s not pretty.


Twenty percent of workers are actively disengaged, and another 50 percent are merely unengaged. Put another way, 70 percent of Americans are unhappy at work, and their discontent is costing businesses billions.


Employee (Un)engagement: The real cost of rancid management


Gallup’s survey found that the number one reason for active disengagement is bad management. Bad management leads to bitter employees “roam[ing] the halls spreading discontent.” Uh oh. What’s more, disengaged workers are more likely to:


  • Steal from their employers;
  • Negatively influence their coworkers;
  • Miss work days; and
  • Drive customers to the competition.


All in all, Gallup estimates disengaged workers cost companies between $450 and $550 billion every year. That’s billion … with a “b.” Every. Dang. Year.


On the other hand, employees with good managers have nearly 50 percent fewer workplace safety mistakes, 41 percent fewer quality defects, and fewer healthcare costs.


This isn’t theory, folks. These are the facts.


Compensation—The elephant in the room?


The research is good stuff, but I do have one bone to pick.


Gallup determined level of employee engagement by measuring responses to twelve statements, including:


“At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.”

“My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to cares about me as a person.”

“I have a best friend at work.”

“In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.”

And guess what? Not a single statement mentioned money.


Whaaaa? Could it be (gasp!) there’s no correlation between compensation and engagement?


Hah! You wish.


The icing on the employee engagement cake


It’s true. Money doesn’t motivate employees to better performance. However, the wrong money is a sure ‘nuff  icing-on-the-cake demotivator.


When an employee is disengaged (because of, say, a bad boss, an out-of-whack workload, and/or too little appreciation), subpar pay and benefits will send him or her right over the cliff to active disengagement.


And when an employee is emotionally connected to work, the right pay is just the right thing to ensure the employee stays put and productive. According to PayScale’s 2015 Compensation Best Practices Report, “seeking higher pay elsewhere” is the top reason people leave jobs.


Clear the path, employer


Here’s the bottom line.


Every employer has excellent reasons to spend serious time addressing the seriously expensive issue of employee disengagement. The Gallup research proves it.


But even though the drivers of disengagement have been well documented, most employers are having a doozy of a time correcting course.


So here’s one thing employers can do to make the situation easier on themselves: Take the issue of money completely off the table. Pay competitive and attractive wages from the get go, and that’ll leave the way clear to focus on more complicated stuff like constructive feedback, recognition, employee development, and supportive management—everything we know leads to happier and more industrious employees.


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