Gallup Finds Most Managers Not Engaged, Costing Economy Up to $398 Billion Annually

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine


April 15 — Just over half of U.S. managers (51 percent) are “not engaged,” 14 percent are “actively disengaged” and just 35 percent are engaged in their jobs, veteran polling firm Gallup found in its “State of the American Manager” report, released April 2.

Those figures, drawn from a sample of 2,564 U.S. managers, don't differ much from engagement statistics for U.S. employees in general, which Gallup tracks daily. In an April 9 statement, Gallup placed the proportion of U.S. workers engaged with their jobs in March at 31.7 percent, down from 32.9 percent in February.

It's even more alarming to find so many alienated managers, however, because their attitudes toward their work affect those of their subordinates—and if it's a bad attitude, the company's bottom line is at risk, Gallup's research suggests. “Through their impact, Gallup estimates that managers who are not engaged or actively disengaged cost the U.S. economy $319 billion to $398 billion annually,” Dr. Jim Harter, Gallup chief scientist for workplace management and well-being, wrote in an April 2 article analyzing the management survey results.

“One reason for the high cost is that manager engagement has a direct impact on employees' engagement,” he added. “Employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59 percent more likely to be engaged than those who are supervised by disengaged managers—leading to higher productivity, lower turnover, better-quality work and higher profitability.”

Harter highlighted another connection in managers' engagement levels—between how skilled they are at managing people and how excited they are about their jobs. “Managers in businesses and organizations who have been identified as having high managerial talent—a natural capacity for excellence—are twice as likely to be engaged (54 percent) as managers who have limited talent (27 percent). Those who possess ‘functioning' or moderate talent are also significantly less likely than the most talented group to be engaged at work,” at 39 percent.

“Just one in 10 people have the unique blend of innate characteristics that Gallup has found to be predictors of management excellence, including the motivator, assertiveness, accountability, relationships and decision-making talents,” Harter said, citing Gallup's survey findings.

“It definitely needs to be a lot higher,” Harter said of manager engagement in an April 15 interview with Bloomberg BNA. “It's a problem from a lot of perspectives.”

Several Reasons for Disengagement.

One of the factors contributing to managerial disengagement is that many people are promoted into management because they were good at other, non-managerial jobs or simply because they stayed with the organization for a certain amount of time, and not because they possess any particular propensity for managing people, Harter said. “This results in people who might have been really good salespeople, accountants or engineers becoming managers, when it doesn't come naturally to them.”

Another factor is whether a manager is in turn supervised by a leader or executive who is engaged, leading to what Harter called a “cascade effect—managers who work for engaged leaders and executives are 39 percent more likely to be engaged themselves.”

Harter said he was surprised by how few managers reported anyone taking an interest in their development. “There are a lot of training programs for managers, so I wonder how effective they are—are they based on who the managers are, or on trying to turn them into someone they're not?”


By Martin Berman-Gorvine

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at

Gallup's report is at

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