More on the case for engaged employees

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How can you increase engagement for someone at work today?

There is some research to show that having a job leads to higher well-being, but it turns out that  not just any job will do. Having a job that you don’t find engaging can be just as detrimental – or even more detrimental – than being unemployed.

While it turns out that most people have a baseline of happiness to which they return even after great happiness (like winning the lottery) or great tragedy (like becoming a paraplegic due to accident), there are some events that are much harder, perhaps impossible, to recover from. One is the death of a much-loved spouse, and another is long-term involuntary unemployment. And these days, with the economic climate of the past couple of years, there are quite a few people in that latter category.

Gallup has also found out that being in a disengaging job can also reduce your overall satisfaction with the quality of your life.

As Gallup reports in its Gallup Management Journal:

It’s no small issue. As the regime changes in Egypt and Tunisia have shown, persistent joblessness can contribute to momentous social upheaval. What’s more, Gallup’s global surveys confirm that people who have jobs rate their overall lives more highly than those who are unemployed, particularly in economically advanced countries.

However, just having a job isn’t the only way that people’s jobs affect how they evaluate their quality of life. There are dramatic differences according to how they view the quality of their job. At a global level, workers’ responses to Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement metric — which tracks their perceptions of 12 key workplace conditions — are strongly related to their personal wellbeing.

How big is the difference?

Engaged employees are more likely to be “thriving” as assessed on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale (45%) than not-engaged employees (26%). Actively disengaged employees are even less thriving, at 13%.

Engaged employees are more likely to say that they have been treated with respect, that they experienced enjoyment, and less likely to have experienced stress or anger in the previous workday. Higher levels of stress and anger, such as those experienced by actively disengaged employees, has serious implications for that individual’s physical and emotional health, as well as potential safety issues in the workplace.

Unsurprisingly, actively disengaged employees also report more health problems that “keep them from doing what people their age can normally do”. We can’t tell which way this causality might flow – if someone genuinely has these health problems, it could make it significantly more difficult for them to actively engage in work. It might also be that if someone is genuinely disengaged at work, that causes more health problems that get in the way. In either direction, the causality could result in a negative downward spiral leading to further health problems and further disengagement at work. Overall, disengaged employee are more likely to cause higher health costs for employers, including more sick days, greater health insurance premiums and more absenteeism.

Overall, as Gallup reports:

Ideally, high employee wellbeing creates a virtuous circle: Workers who are happier and more content with their lives make for a more productive workplace, and that greater productivity leads to successes that boost their wellbeing even further.

How can this be done? See my earlier post on the powers of strengths coaching to enhance engagement. That’s one way. There are several model workplaces to study, such as Zappos. And, of course, ensuring good fit for your corporate leaders and managers will have a trickle-down effect to employees and teams.


What will you do today at work to increase engagement for someone around you?


Lisa Sansom

Lisa Sansom has her MBA from the Rotman School of Management, and over two decades of experience in teaching and training. Her years of work in the organizational development field have included projects on change management, employee engagement, leadership development, team coaching and employer of choice strategies.

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