Unhappy Workers Cost Us All $550B Each Year

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The U.S. economy is losing hundreds of billions of dollars because too many employees flat out hate their jobs.

OK, the official take on that subject doesn't use those terms. Instead, workplace analysts say more and more workers are "disengaged" at work, and that's the term Gallup uses in its study, State of the American Workplace.

Gallup reports that even increased employee perks and flexible schedules aren't making workers feel better about their jobs.

Call it hate or call it disengagement, but that negative sentiment from American workers is, according to Gallup, fueling "significant implications for the economy, and for individual companies" as sour attitudes toward jobs lead to decreased productivity:
  • Companies ranked in the top 25% of having "engaged workers" have significantly higher productivity, profitability and customer service than companies in the bottom quartile.
  • U.S. companies with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every one disengaged employee had a 147% higher earnings per share compared with their competition, while companies with 2.6 engaged workers for every one disengaged worker showed a 2% lower EPS average.
  • So-called "active disengagement" in the workplace costs the U.S. economy up to $550 billion per year, Gallup says.
  • Only about 22% of U.S. workers are "engaged and thriving," Gallup adds.

Why is that last figure so low?

In many cases, employees are unhappy because they lack one or more things at work, such as recognition, advancement opportunity, work-life balance and/or a positive relationship with their manager, says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at the staffing service company Robert Half.

"If you're unhappy at work, I recommend you do three things," McDonald says:
  • First, have a conversation with your manager to discuss your workload. Is there too much or too little on your plate? Re-examine priorities together so you can make adjustments and focus on the most important projects.
  • Second, find a resource outside your department. Tap your mentor, a family member or someone else as a sounding board to discuss how you're feeling and get some perspective. Outside contacts may have valuable advice to offer based on their own experience.
  • Third, set limits on your time at work so you can make time for yourself. "Find something else that is fun for you, helps you recharge your batteries and gives you interaction with people outside of work. This could be as simple as stepping away from your desk every hour or two to take a quick walk," McDonald says.

There are no hard and fast rules to flip the script on disengaged employees. But communicating feelings about your workplace with a trusted counsel is a good place to start getting "engaged" again.