Jan 25, 2023 - Economy

Americans are increasingly disgruntled at work

Illustration of a paper clip making an angry expression

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

You can call it quiet quitting or whatever buzzword you like, but the bottom line is workers in the U.S. just aren't that happy. Only 32% of employees said they were "actively engaged" at work, or feeling passionate about their jobs, down from a high of 36% in 2020, according to a Gallup report out Wednesday, which averaged survey results across 2022.

Why it matters: Changing requirements around remote and hybrid work and a lack of communication with managers are causing people to psychologically disengage, with increasing numbers feeling like no one cares about them.

  • This year, concerns around layoffs are making the situation worse.

Go deeper: 18% of employees said in 2022 they were "actively disengaged," i.e., disgruntled and disloyal, the highest that number has been since 2013.

  • The remaining half of workers are just doing the bare minimum to get by, says Jim Harter, chief workplace scientist at Gallup.

How it works: Gallup has been tracking what it calls "employee engagement" since 2000, using quarterly surveys of around 15,000 full- and part-time employees.

  • It asks a set of 12 questions about overall job satisfaction, well-being and other things.
  • There were a few areas where the decline in engagement was most noticeable: With more employees reporting that they don't know what's expected of them, don't feel cared about, don't see opportunities to learn and grow, and don't feel connected to their employer's "mission."

State of play: Young employees are feeling the most disconnected. Engagement for those under 35 decreased by four percentage points; while active disengagement went up by the same amount.

  • Engagement fell across the board, no matter if someone worked remotely, in a hybrid arrangement, or on-site.
  • Of note: Workers who were in jobs that could be done remotely, but were forced to work on-site saw an increase of 7 points in active disengagement.

1 big idea: A crucial move that managers can make to improve engagement is holding simple, one-on-one meetings with each direct report. One recent study found they led to a 54% increase in engagement.

  • "It might sound simple, but there's some low-hanging fruit out there that gets overlooked," says Harter.
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