Why Only 13% of People Love Their Jobs

It’s time to face the inconvenient truth. The truth is, we are living in a world where disengagement at the workplace has reached epidemic proportions. In 2013, only an average of 13% of people said they like their jobs. That leaves 87% of us who either dislike or hate their jobs.

Early this month, Gallup announced the results of its global workplace study.  Across 142 countries where roughly 180 million employees in the countries studied, they discovered only 13% of the working population are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to make positive contributions in their organizations.

Here’s the breakdown of Gallup’s 2013 results worldwide:

  • 13% Engaged: Employees feel a strong connection to the success of their organization – almost as owners – and invest significant discretionary time and effort. 
  • 63% Not Engaged: People feel less connected to their work and are disinclined to display initiative.
  • 24% Actively Disengaged: Workers who are unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to coworkers. In rough numbers, this translates into 900 million not engaged and 340 million actively disengaged workers around the globe.This means 87% of the world’s working population is not meaningfully engaged in, or otherwise enthusiastic about their jobs. Worldwide, actively disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees by nearly 2:1.

Here’s an interesting chart that shows the level of engagement categorized by region. I’m not surprised by the greater disengagement in countries like Korea and China.


The results do not warrant much explanation. The fact is, a majority of us consider work as a necessary evil, a daily grind, a set of thankless tasks that must be done for mere survival. They are plagued by a lack of purpose and confused to how one should find meaning in work. 

Mark C. Crowley asks a very important question:

Is there a universal root to why people across the world are so disheartened in their jobs?

Crowley interviewed Dr. Jim Harter, Gallup’s Chief Research Scientist who shared insights why people worldwide have been witnessing this epidemic.

So, what’s the overarching reason the world’s workforce is so disengaged?

Inadequate Skill Sets for Leadership Roles:  Harter says that organizations aren’t putting the right people into managerial positions.  “People get into management based on all the wrong factors,” “Typically, it’s because they were successful in a previous job unrelated to management, or they had long tenure in the company and got rewarded for that.  But neither of those two things relate to the talents people need to effectively lead others.  That kind of misalignment has become a huge problem around the world.” This reminds me of Marshall Goldsmith’s book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful.” According to Gallup’s analysis, at least two-thirds of all people in supervisory roles today lack the requisite skill set.  More significantly, Gallup has determined that just one in ten managers today have the “extreme talent” to effectively lead and inspire people in the 21st Century.  And, only two in ten have the potential to ever develop those same abilities with focused coaching. I’m not too surprised by this data. Surveying the business landscape, it’s quite safe to say most of us are working for ‘bosses’ not ‘leaders.’ Poor leadership has catalyzed a toxic culture in organizations.  This explains why we have over 100,000 books written on the topic of leadership. This is why Google generates more than 369 million searches on “leadership.” The world is hungry for effective leadership. Read more on how to become a better lead here.

John Maxwell perfectly sums it up as “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” That is one incontrovertible truth.

Failure to Discover Vocation in Life: Another cause of this worldwide disengagement can found in the Bible. Work was supposed to be a blessing, enjoyed even by Adam and Eve who were employed in the Garden of Eden to “work it and keep it.” However, after the Fall, we were cursed, which caused us to labor in frustration and sweat (Gen 3:17-19). Instead of viewing our work as holy work, where we become “priesthoods of all believers,” we have privatized our work. Our view of work has degenerated from public contribution into a means of private advancement.

That is, instead of viewing work as vocation, we have rendered work either as a ‘job’ or ‘career’. Those who consider their work as a job are those who embrace the motto “everybody’s working for the weekend.” They live for breaks, for vocation. A job is simply the means to the end, such as a paycheck, the need to support their family, or their next rent. The careerist, on the other hand, drives meaning not from the nature of work itself, but rather from the gratification that comes from advancing through the ranks and earning promotions.

Interestingly, the root word “Avodah” is used in the Bible with two disctinct, intertwined meanings: worship and work. When we do our work with integrity we are in essence worshiping God. The western idea of segmenting work and worship clearly contradicts how The Bible interprets work and worship. As Dorothy Sayer said, “work is not primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties…the medium to which he offers himself to God.” Here’s a short clip to watch how work can become worship.


While we could be frustrated and bemoan the horrific 13% of engagement of world’s working population, why don’t we consider this a positive opportunity to make things better. In fact, these statistics have solidified my intention to pursue my calling with greater depth and passion – that is, to help the next generation of leaders become more intentional in living their purpose-driven lives and cultivating good-to-great leadership.

What about you? Are you going to be part of the 87% living a meaningless, complacent life, or would you like to join me in taking up the challenge to join the 13%?