Disengaged Workers Can Torpedo Their Companies

January 23, 2014

Most organizations know they have at least some unhappy, unengaged workers but many might be surprised that up to 1 of 4 people they employ are pulling them down.

cost of disengaged employees
Don’t let disengaged employees torpedo your organization’s progress.

These workers are inconsistent and disconnected. At best, they are passive. At worst they are cancerous and toxic. Actively disengaged employees are unhappy, unproductive and aren’t shy about sharing their feelings. They spread negativity like a bad cold in a kindergarten classroom.

Their effect on the workplace is far from benign. Bob Kelleher, an author and employee engagement expert, put together a great 4-minute video on the cost of disengaged employees called “Who’s Sinking Your Boat?”

Among the statistics he cites:

  • Employees with low engagement are 4 times more likely to quit and take jobs elsewhere than employees with higher engagement.
  • A disengaged manager is 3 times more likely to have disengaged employees than a manager engaged in the job.
  • Disengaged managers cost U.S. companies $450 billion a year.


Up to 1 of every 4 employees is actively disengaged. Gallup, in its big 2013 global workplace engagement study, put this number at 24 percent of all workers. The Dale Carnegie organization, which teamed up with MSW Research, an independent New York-based market research, says 26 percent of the workforce is actively disengaged.

Studies of the U.S. workforce consistently find about 30 percent of employees are actively engaged in their jobs. Bob Kelleher calls them the “paddlers.”

The largest group is considered “somewhat engaged.” These workers may lack motivation and frown upon new challenges but typically aren’t disruptive. In Kelleher’s metaphor, they are “passengers.”

But combined with the actively disengaged group, they account for 70 percent of employees. The lost opportunity is huge.

So how does a company get employees who are more engaged?

Clear communication is a good place to start. Showing employees their contributions are valued, even with something as simple as “Thank You!” is another. Empowering them to make decisions and take on more responsibility goes a long way, too.

Collaboration will separate winning companies from laggards. As the workplace shifts, with more Generation Y and Millennials moving in (and yes, taking over), organizations must adapt, recognizing that social collaboration gets work done and the old ways of viewing employees as faceless assets are over.

A culture of respect and trust is a rising tide that elevates employees along the engagement spectrum. Build one and you may find fewer torpedos lurking about to take you down.

Callibrain is a cloud-based employee engagement platform that helps organizations communicate with clarity and shared goals.
Check out how it works.

Watch Bob Kelleher’s video.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s