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Disengaged but I Like My Job

Modern Survey, an organization that measures workplace intensity, released a statistic this week that 70% of USA workers take pride in their jobs. Despite the fact, that nearly 70% of the same workers claim they are disengaged.

A similar trend holds true in the federal government. Commitment and satisfaction levels of federal employees are at their lowest levels since the feds started measuring these drivers of engagement in 2003. Yet, most federal workers claim they inherently like the work they do.

What gives? How can an employee say they do not bring discretionary effort to their jobs while in the same breath say they like their jobs?

I think the answer resides within this complicated notion of unconscious bias.

Confirmation Bias
The tendency to favor our own beliefs shuts out opportunities to look at them objectively. We get stuck in a rut and fail to question our current realities. It is easier to just stick with what has worked for us in the past.

Sunk Cost Fallacy
Where we justify investment in decisions based on prior outlays even in the face of evidence that suggests our original decisions were wrong. In other words, it is too late to turn back now.

Optimism Bias
Our inclination to be over-optimistic, overestimating favorable and pleasing outcomes since the confrontation of our current unfavorable condition would force us to do something about it.

Desirability Bias
The pre-disposition to over-report desirable characteristics or behaviors in one self while at the same time under-reporting undesirable characteristics or behaviors.

Survivorship Bias
The notion that we concentrate on things or people that survive and overlook things and people that do not due to their lack of visibility. You hear this bias in statements like. “I may be disengaged but I am happy to still have a job.”

In-Group Bias
The tendency for people to defer to others they perceive to be members of their own groups. Since most folks around me like their jobs even though they are disengaged, they must be correct in their assessments.

Experience Bias
My perceptions were accurate in the past therefore they are accurate in the here and now even though more current data could help me see the issue more clearly.

Distance Bias
The belief that a more comfortable immediate decision is better than a more thought out distant decision that creates more value. By continually saying I like my work in the present, precludes me from doing anything about my disengagement in the future.

Availability Bias
The tendency for us to overestimate the probability of events associated with experiences. One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I have always told people I like my job and to change my tune would make me look inconsistent.

False Consensus Effect
The overestimation of the extent to which our beliefs are typical of those of others. Others in this case being our federal colleagues. Birds of a feather flock together.

The emperor has no clothes. A fish is the last one to know they are out of water. Federal workers are the last ones to know they are disengaged, because we all like the work we do. We are the easiest persons to fool.

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James Cunningham

For engagement to work, we need to change the workplace culture in federal government. If supervisors were evaluated by those they supervise, a lot would change, especially if that supervisor truly wanted his/her workforce to become engaged and diligent in improving the federal product.

Terrence Hill

I agree with James. Ultimately, leaders have the greatest impact on employee engagement/disengagement. Until they are held accountable by their customers (employees), engagement will not improve. It’s too easy to blame the economy, Congress, and others when ultimately, leaders have the greatest impact on engagement.

richard regan

Actually the same data indicates that Senior Executive Service members are the highest engaged members of the federal government while their direct reports are disengaged. What gives?