Just 35% of managers are engaged at work, Gallup finds

'Actively disengaged' managers can cost the U.S. economy up to $398B annually

Sixty-five percent of managers say they are apathetic or actively disengaged at work—and that is costing the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars each year, a new Gallup report finds.

More than 2,500 managers in 190 different fields answered Gallup's Q12 survey, which includes 12 items related to performance outcomes. The researchers then analyzed the data to determine the state of manager and employee engagement throughout the country.

A costly engagement issue in the U.S. workforce

The survey concluded that:

  • 35% of managers are engaged in their jobs;
  • 51% are not engaged and care little about their job or company;
  • 14% are "actively disengaged."

This engagement shortfall is exacerbated by what Gallup calls the "cascade effect," in which employees' engagement is directly influenced by their managers' engagement. When a high-level manager is disengaged at work, the disengagement is likely to trickle down to individuals at every level under that manger's oversight.

In fact, employees whose managers are engaged are 59% more likely to be engaged than those who report to actively disengaged managers.

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In turn, Gallup found that managers who are directly supervised by highly engaged leadership teams are 39% more likely to feel engaged themselves than managers who are overseen by disengaged leadership teams.

According to Gallup, the lack of engagement in the U.S. workforce can have detrimental economic consequences, negatively impact growth and innovation, and stifle revenue capture.

Managers who are "not engaged" cost the United States $77 billion to $96 billion per year through their impact on the employees they manage. Meanwhile, the "actively disengaged" managers cost the country $319 billion to $398 billion annually, according to Gallup estimates.

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How to improve engagement

The findings suggest that leaders should invest in three main areas to improve engagement among managers and their employees:  

  • Communicate clearly about the company's mission, the state of the organization, and plans for the future. Then, explain to employees how they can play an active role in getting the company to its desired goals.
  • Prioritize learning and give employees opportunities to grow their skills through coaching, mentorship, or some other type of learning.
  • Give leaders the tools and resources to recognize and build on their natural, individual strengths. In addition, leaders should work to "mold" mangers' responsibilities to ensure they leverage those personal strengths (Adkins, "Business Journal," Gallup, 4/2).

The takeaway: Apathetic and actively disengaged managers could be costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars and hindering their employees' potential, a new Gallup report finds.

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