The vast majority of American workers spend their workdays going through the motions, and a small percentage even actively sabotage the work of others, according to a new Gallup poll.
According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, a mere 22 percent of U.S. employees believe in the work they’re doing and are doing well outside of the office too.
“When employees are engaged and thriving in their overall lives, they are more likely to maintain strong work performance—even during difficult times,” the report states.
But 22 percent is a small minority.
The overall unhappiness of the American workforce could point to larger problems among the working class, namely overall dissatisfaction with their jobs and a lack of lucrative job offers in the post-recession market.
Dr. Sabina Lim, vice chair for clinical affairs in the Department of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, said it’s her opinion that difficult financial and social times full of uncertainties and unknowns can weigh on people individually.
“The gestalt in the world may make things worse because there’s nothing better out there,” she said in an interview with Healthline. “It can give you a sense that doors aren’t open.”
The Three Kinds of Employees
According to the Gallup poll, 70 percent of employees fall into one of two categories: not-engaged or actively disengaged. The not-engaged are the office zombies putting time, but not energy, into their work.
The actively disengaged—18 percent—are the ones you have to watch out for because they’re unhappy and stay busy acting out that unhappiness. They’re the ones throwing wrenches into the gears their engaged coworkers have set in motion.
Gallup estimates that the actively disengaged cost the U.S. economy up to $550 billion in lost productivity each year.
The remaining 30 percent of the workforce fall into the "engaged" category, meaning they work with passion and believe in what they do. These people, Gallup researchers said, are the backbone of successful businesses.
Keeping Yourself Happy and Engaged at Work
Everyone needs a way to pay their rent, so we can’t all quit our jobs just because we don’t like them.
Lim suggests looking at work problems in small, manageable chunks and seeing what you personally can do to better your situation or to help the group succeed. Small things like taking time for a 30-minute lunch break to decompress is one way to increase your morale.
She said finding something to focus on and improve is better than resorting to extreme behavior like walking out on your sole source of income.
“It’s helpful to take an inventory of everything before you jump ship,” Lim said.
However, when dissatisfaction from work spills into other parts of your life, it may be time to seek professional help. Signs of mental distress—persistent bad moods, anger, trouble sleeping, etc.—can leak into the office environment, while stress from work can make things even worse.
“It’s not unusual, of course, for people to experience signs of feeling down, angry, irritable, and all those negative emotions in that situation,” Lim said.
She recommends that people who need help utilize their company’s wellness or employee assistance programs or seeking mental health treatment outside of work.
“But being dissatisfied with your job doesn’t mean you have a mental illness,” Lim emphasized.