Emotional connections: I can disconnect you now

Published: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 10:54 a.m. CDT

Do you hate your job? Are you filled with revulsion when you think about your work?

If the answer to these questions is, “yes, yes, a thousand times, yes,” then let me congratulate you. You’re more connected to your job than 70 percent of Americans.

That’s right! By hating your job, you have an emotional connection to your work. It’s a negative connection, true, but it’s a connection all the same. Seventy percent of your co-workers do not feel negative or positive or anything. They’re zombies, marching through the workday without a thought in their heads.

“Walking automatons,” author Steven Rosenfeld calls this somnambulistic majority. They’re “people not feeling emotional ties to what they do and sizeable numbers actively seeking to sabotage their colleagues and managers.”

Mr. Rosenfeld shows how much he is involved with the terminally uninvolved in a recent article in AlterNet. He reports on the latest Gallup “State of the Workforce” survey in which the sad emotional state of the American workforce was revealed. (Is it better in France? I don’t know, but at least workers there get to wear jaunty berets.)

Digging into the statistics, the gloomy report gets even bleaker. The total zombie 70 percent can be broken down into 52 percent who are “emotionally disconnected.” They don’t give a damn. But then there is the 18 percent who are “actively disengaged.” They don’t give a damn, but they are working hard to make things worse.

According to the snoops at Gallup, “actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.”

(Does this mean Gallup knows you’ve been encouraging your co-workers to spend their workdays playing games on your Xbox, which you run off the battery in your boss’ Tesla? Probably so, but don’t worry — 70 percent of Gallup employees are also emotionally disconnected, so no one cares enough to spill the beans.)

When it comes to a demographic breakdown of the workers who have broken down, it is clearly a story of the young and disconnected. “Educated young men appear to be the least committed to their employer,” Rosenfeld says Gallup says.

This shouldn’t come as a great surprise. Young men often have trouble making a commitment, as someone who has watched all six seasons of “The Bachelor” can tell you.

And that “educated” part doesn’t help either. Be honest now — wouldn’t you be much happier in your job if you were just a little bit more stupid?

Gallup’s methodology for extracting poll data is to ask workers to comment on a series of 12 statements. To test your commitment to me, I ask you to think about how you would respond if a friendly voice from a friendly call center solicited your comments on statements such as “At work my opinions seem to count,” or “Someone at work seems to care about me as a person,” and how about “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise?”

Were your answers positive and committed? They should have been. At work, your opinions definitely do count. If you didn’t have opinions, what would your manager have to ignore? And someone certainly does care about you as a person. If business gets any worse, you’re a person who can be fired.

As for receiving recognition or praise in the last seven days, you could probably answer in the affirmative if they would only change “days” to “years,” or maybe to “decades” or “millenniums.”

See — easy-peezy.

Interestingly, survey results show that the highest levels of commitment are in Southern states and lowest in Northern states, with Minnesota ranking No. 1 in disconnected workers. I believe this phenomenon can be explained by a surfeit of rednecks in the South, and the high comfort level Minnesotans have for zombies. How else can you explain that everyone up there eats lutefisk and Spam curds?

You won’t be surprised to learn that Gallup blames the executive class for turning the American workplace into Zombieland. They’ve “never learned basic people skills to make others feel good about themselves and their work.”

Of course, the executives in your firm are different. They’ve long assumed that by paying themselves gigantic salaries and outfitting themselves with lavish gold parachutes while you work for bupkis with no job security whatsoever, little people like you would be inspired, committed and connected.

And so you should. After all, they could be paying you in Spam curds.

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