Employee disengagement has hit depressingly low levels, and leaders need to act

"The world is closer to colonizing Mars than it is to fixing the world's broken workplaces," Gallup researchers write.
Written by Pallavi Kenkare, Associate Editor
Exhausted pensive employee is using smart gadget
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Fewer than two in 10 European employees feel engaged at work, workplace data from management consultancy and advisory firm Gallup suggests – lower than any part of the world.

Gallup's 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report found that engagement amongst European workers sits at just 14%, compared to 33% in North America and 21% worldwide.

It also found that stress amongst professionals globally has "reached an all-time high" – higher even than 2020 – with Gallup commenting that "the world is closer to colonizing Mars than it is to fixing the world's broken workplaces."  

Gallup identified unfair treatment at work as the leading source of employee disengagement, followed by an unmanageable workload, unclear communication from managers, lack of manager support, and unreasonable time pressures.

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The root of this disengagement lies with leaders, who must focus on "making work more rewarding and more meaningful for their people" by prioritizing employee wellbeing and engagement, said Gallup.

A manager's impact on their workplace is so strong that Gallup predicted 70% of team management metrics just by interviewing their boss, providing a clear incentive for companies to evaluate their management, culture, and leadership style. 

"Managers need to be better listeners, coaches and collaborators. Great managers help colleagues learn and grow, recognize their colleagues for doing great work, and make them truly feel cared about. In environments like this, workers thrive," said Gallup.

A study of more than 36,200 IT professionals by mental wellbeing platform Yerbo in March 2022 found that two in five workers are at high risk of burnout.

Although stress and anxiety tend to be a part of any job, they are much more prevalent in the professional lives of disengaged employees, Gallup found that 59% and 56% of disengaged employees report experiencing stress and worry frequently at work.

At the same time, 31% report experiencing anger frequently at work, and 33% report feeling physical pain. These figures were 46% to 83% higher for disengaged employees when compared to engaged employees. 

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Disengaged employees also report that stress, worry, anger and pain often impact their personal lives. A Gallup study in Germany found that 51% of actively disengaged employees reported that job stress caused them to behave poorly towards loved ones. 

The impact of disengagement in the workplace doesn't stop with employees. Businesses with engaged workers report 23% higher profits when compared to businesses with disengaged workers. Engaged workers are less likely to be absent at work, leave their jobs or experience an accident at work. And, tellingly, engaged workers also experience higher levels of customer loyalty. 

Interestingly, engagement does not necessarily correlate to employee satisfaction. Although employee engagement in Europe is low, the region holds the second-lowest percentage of employees who say they are likely to move in the next 12 months (14%), as well as the second-lowest regional percentage of employees who say corruption is widespread in their country's businesses (60%). 

Europeans also feel more respected than employees in other regions, the study found.

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