Is a Disengaged Government Employee a Loyal Employee?

The answer may be yes! Studies show that while most government employees are satisfied with their jobs, many are not actively engaged in the performance and quality of their work. Yet, a hearty 63% of those public sector workers say that they intend to stay in their positions long-term. Factors such as leadership effectiveness, performance management, employee involvement, and pay and benefits have a significant impact on how government employees feel about their jobs. Why would someone stay in a job where they’re not satisfied? Have we become so immune to the fact that we should actually enjoy (gasp!) what we do or are we just going through the motions to collect a paycheck? Perhaps our lives have become so fast paced, that we are simply showing up and are satisfied getting by with “good enough.”

I recently sent an email correspondence out to a colleague asking several questions about a project we are working on together. Less than two minutes later, my phone rings. It was my colleague calling to talk about the email I sent. The funny thing about this scenario is that it completely caught me off-guard! It was so odd to me that instead of responding to my inquiry via email, he chose to actually pick up the phone and talk about the project. Sensing my initial “shock,” we discussed how we, as a society, have grown so accustomed to the “speed of light” work environment, the “just get it done” mentality, and the impersonal form of communication that has become the norm. After I hung-up the phone, I not only got the answer to my questions that allowed me to move forward on the project, I also felt a connection with my colleague that gave me a sense of satisfaction and engagement that felt pretty darn good. Since that brief conversation, I’ve continued to think about the message that I took from that telephone call and how I can become more engaged and motivated, not just with the quality of my performance, but in the quality of my interactions with individuals both on and off the job.

Motivation experts, Drea Zigarmi, Susan Fowler, and David Facer, believe that motivation is a skill that can be taught, learned, developed, and nurtured. Motivated employees, at all levels of the agency, experience higher levels of energy, vitality, and well-being by leveraging their natural tendency to:

  • Attain and sustain peak performance.
  • Craft innovative solutions to persistent problems.
  • Continually build their competence and creativity for identifying opportunities to accomplish their goals, contribute to the agency’s mission, and discover new ways of motivating others.
  • Build and continually enrich the organizational culture and community.

Employees are looking for leaders that can instill motivation, work passion, and creativity that inspires them to work hard and make a significant contribution to their agency.

Do you have a story about a situation that motivated you and created a work passion you never thought was possible? Share it here, or at, and let’s motivate each other.

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David Dejewski

Personal connections work really well. I suspect the phone call you got was due, at least in part, to your personality and the fact that the caller was interested in talking with you. He had, as we all have, a choice – ignore, hit reply, pick up the phone, or walk over and face-to-face. If you were a bore or a negative nelly, I’m betting either ignore or the reply button would have been the choice instead of a phone call. You’ve illustrated the importance of being pleasant in the office.

There is another reason why disengaged employees may be dedicated employees: when they are deliberately disengaged. Field operatives tend to be deliberately disengaged, but one may argue they prove their loyalty to an even greater extent than many who show up in the office each day.

I believe personal / human connections are a big part of workplace loyalty. We may be loyal to the mission, but it’s those moments of connection like the one you describe that bring us joy.

Nice piece. 🙂

Ann Ligi

My agency disengaged me by giving my job to someone else (state employee) and NOT telling me about it – I figured it out from this person’s comments and behavior. It took me about 10 years to become jaded with this state agency…as a contracted employee everytime the contract is up, I start over as an entry level employee with the “new” contractor… Why do I stay? Were it not for my commitment to the disadvantaged people we serve, and implications that I would move up [there is no moving “up” for contract employees], I’d have left – I have not found anything comparable unless I take a $30000 cut and that’s not possible.