What Is the True Cost of Employee Disengagement?

September 12, 2016

2:00 pm

A staggering 70% of US employees are not engaged in the workplace. This modern day zombie apocalypse comes at a greater cost than you might realize – especially as a  startup. Gallup research has uncovered that the top 25% of engaged employees incur much less healthcare costs than the bottom 25% of employees. Unhappiness in the workplace directly affects employee’s health and well-being, making a zombie analogy even the more fitting.

The Cost of Disengagement

Unengaged employees not only drag down company profits, they also take an unnecessary toll on the entire healthcare industry. Also, workplace zombies often infect others in the workplace, creating an epidemic of unhappiness.

“Of the approximate 100 million people in America who hold full-time jobs, 30 million (30%) are engaged and inspired at work, so we can assume they have a great boss,” said Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup. “At the other end of the spectrum are roughly 20 million (20%) employees who are actively disengaged. These employees, who have bosses from hell that make them miserable, roam the halls spreading discontent. The other 50 million (50%) American workers are not engaged. They’re just kind of present, but not inspired by their work or their managers.”

Employee disengagement can be costly to your company. How? Let's take a look:

It's Expensive

Employing workplace zombies is very costly to your business. Not only do unengaged workers take more time off, they also are less productive and profitable overall. It doesn’t take a brain to see how these factors correlate – happy and engaged employees want to see their company succeed and go above and beyond to ensure success.

Disengaged employees on the other hand don’t see their efforts translating into any real purpose, and this disenfranchisement doesn’t lead to workplace success. When you're running a startup, every employee and dollar counts – which makes active disengagement even more worrisome for new businesses.

It's a Profit Killer

Active employee engagement plays a major part in company profits, earnings and overall success. So the next time you wonder if the costs of employee engagement activities are actually worth the time and effort, ask yourself if you can afford to have a disengaged workforce sucking up your resources?

Since uninterested workers can also negatively drain their engaged colleagues, it’s important to address any indication of disengagement as soon as possible.

How to Fix It

Well, don't just stand around and let these workplace zombies take over your office. Make sure to employ these two tactics to keep disengagement at a minimum.

Good Management is Key

Contrary to what The Walking Dead might tell you, the best weapon against zombies in the workforce is good management. In fact, no matter the size of the company or startup, executives and managers play the most critical role in ensuring their employees are fully engaged.

However, with only one-third of managers reporting active engagement, it’s no surprise their direct reports are also unsatisfied. Gallup research shows that managers who focus on utilizing their employees strengths are able to double engagement.

Tailor Incentives for Individual Employees

Nothing turns an engaged employee into a zombie faster than forcing them to attend yet another ‘team-building’ event on a Saturday. Although this may be engaging to some, it might disenfranchise others.

Finding out what excites and engages an employee can help prevent them from becoming a workplace zombie. Wondering what perks work and which don't? Experts share their tips on the best perks for happy and engaged employees.

Photo: Flickr / Nathan Rupert


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Elizabeth is a tech contributor for PROTECH,; Tāk and other SFL businesses. Elizabeth is also the author of travel and children's books. More about her adventures can be found on her blog: You can reach her at