When Your Employees Hate Their Job

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” Confucius said. Unfortunately, a majority of workers have no love for their jobs, and 18 percent worldwide describe themselves as “actively disengaged,” according to a recent Gallup survey of 5.4 million working adults.

In the United States, 30 percent claim to be engaged at work, higher than many countries, particularly New Zealand, where 62 percent describe themselves at not engaged at work.

But let’s not congratulate ourselves. That means that 70 percent of our workers describe themselves as non-engaged or actively disengaged. In their article, “Half Your Employees Hate Their Job,” Tom Gardner and Morgan Housel used an excellent analogy to describe the situation.

“Imagine a 10-person bicycle. This means that three people are pedaling, five are pretending to pedal, and two are jamming the brakes. That’s you, corporate America.”

Other troubling results came from a survey done by Bain & Associates Company with Netsurvey, which analyzed responses from 200,000 employees in 60 countries and found the following:

• Engagement scores decline as employee tenure increases. Employees with the deepest knowledge of the company, and the most experience, typically are the least engaged.

• Scores decline at the lowest levels of the organization, suggesting that senior executive teams likely underestimate the discontent on the front lines.

• Engagement levels are lowest in sales and service functions, where most interactions with customers occur.

No good news there, right? But there are things you can do to engage your employees, which leads to better morale and increased productivity.

In an article in Harvard Business Review, “The Four Secrets to Employee Engagement,” Rob Markey has suggestions that include have the supervisors lead the engagement efforts, train them on how to talk candidly with their employees and have them conduct short, frequent and anonymous line surveys to stay in touch with how things are going.

Supervisors should also ask employees on the front line how they can improve service to customers. “The companies that regularly earn high employee engagement tap that knowledge by asking employees how the company can earn more of their customers’ business and build the ranks of customer promoters,” Markey wrote.  “And they don’t just ask; they also listen hard to the answers, take action, and let their employees know about it.”

Housel and Gardner, who is also co-founder of The Motley Fool, had suggestions that include letting go of vacation and sick pay policies. Make your office someplace people would actually like to spend time — have meditation classes, install treadmill desks, let them go on Facebook and ESPN at work without feeling like they are cheating.

One intriguing suggestion they had is to let employees write their own job descriptions. The company learns where the passions of its employees are and if possible, can incorporate some of what they want to be doing to what they are actually doing.

Isn’t it worth the effort to get more people pedaling on your team? Your company needs to do whatever it can to get those people who are jamming the brakes or just pretending to pedal to start contributing to the group effort.

In my next column, I’ll write about some companies that have taken even more radical steps to make sure they have a more engaged work force. And I’ll share with you my top tips to engage your employees.