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71 Percent Of US Government Workers Are Disengaged At Work

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

Some 71 percent of state and local full-time government workers are disengaged at work, according to a recent poll.

The cost of disengaged workers to the U.S. government per year is roughly half a trillion dollars, according to a Tuesday Gallup Poll. State and local governments comprise roughly 11 percent of national GDP, and conservative estimates peg disengagement costs of these governments at $100 billion dollars.

The data comprises 400,000 full-time workers in the U.S., including all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Gallup defined disengaged workers as “essentially checked out,” and rather than actively pursuing their tasks at work they were “sleepwalking through their workday, putting time — but not energy or passion — into their work.”

Research found that actively disengaged workers were, more or less, out to “cause problems at their workplace.” The study noted that these employees monopolize their managers’ time, have more accidents in the workplace, call in sick more days, and quit at much higher rates than their actively engaged counterparts. Essentially, whatever the engaged workers are doing, the disengaged workers are actively undoing.

The most common states to have actively disengaged workers are centered in the Northeast and Midwest–New York, New Hampshire, Michigan, Connecticut, Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Interestingly, actively disengaged state and local employees are least common in six states across the South and Midwest–Wyoming, Nebraska, Idaho, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi.

Looking at GDP growth per state in the first quarter of 2016, it is interesting to see how each of these states performed. While the Northeast and Midwestern states have the greatest preponderance of actively disengaged workers, they seem to be performing better than the states with the least amount of disengaged workers.

For example, New Hampshire, in the first quarter of 2016, saw a 2.9 percent increase in GDP despite it’s higher rate of employee disengagement. Nebraska, on the other hand, saw a -1.9 percent decrease in GDP, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The median percentage of actively disengaged workers throughout the U.S. is 17 percent and the median percentage of engaged workers is 29 percent, according to Gallup. Private organizations that make employee engagement a priority have seen many positive benefits. Research shows companies that employ this strategy see 14 engaged workers to every 1 disengaged worker, with the national average being 2 engaged workers to every 1 disengaged worker, according to Gallup.

Since state and local government employees are paid with taxpayer dollars and they provide services for taxpayers, government employers and taxpayers alike should be focused on how to improve employee engagement in these workplaces. Less than a third of state and local government employees are engaged and about one in six of these employees are disengaged, according to Gallup.

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