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.

gallup-worldwide-engagement-and-disengagement

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.

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=m06DYIAeCtU]

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%?


  • suchanlee

    It’s sad that such a high percentage of people take on and stay with jobs they don’t like, considering the amount of time we put into working during our short lives..

    • You’re absolutely right Suchan. Think 40+ hours we spend in our waking hours where we feel completely at loss. People are hungry for meaning and purpose. Anyhow, how’s life? You should visit Portland. You have a place and food provided. 🙂

      • suchanlee

        Not only do people need a meaning and a purpose, they need courage — courage to step out of their comfort zone and actually do things they like. Easier said than done of course.
        I’m moving to the Bay Area starting next August and I will definitely head over to Portland every now and then 🙂

        • Well said, calling and courage needs to go hand in hand. I’m glad you’re moving to Bay Area! I may not be in Portland by then, but perhaps closer to where you are! Let’s see where the Lord leads me.

  • Lavonya Jones

    Thank you for this post Paul! This adds fuel to why I do what I do. Going after the disengaged & help them return to their dreams!

    • Your relentless work and willingness to coach the next generation of leaders, particularly helping them reach their God-given dream is something I highly respect and admire! Keep it up, Lavonya.

      • Lavonya Jones

        I know this is a total delayed response, but thank you Paul! In my life time I have committed to fighting the high percentage of unemployment among youth and the high percentage of disgruntled workers. I am putting my faith that this will change in my lifetime!

  • Lynn Hare

    Brilliant post, Paul. What if, through our collective encouragement and Kingdom-minded salt-and-light example, we could draw people into the presence of God so deeply, it would be reversed: 87% would see their jobs as vehicles for His intents & purposes?

    • So good Lynn. That I think is what Paul talked about in Acts “turning the world upside down.”

      • Lynn Hare

        Yeah, only I’m going to empty the quarters out of my pockets first!

  • Very interesting post. Enjoyed learning more about “Avodah”. I think many in our society have separated sacred from secular. Sunday’s are sacred but the rest of the week is secular. Many have forgotten that God goes with us to our jobs and homes. He doesn’t stay in the church. We are His temple!

    We are made for worshiping Him- that means inside the church and outside.

    I have 2 completely different college degree’s and use neither of them. I enjoyed working in both capacities but NOTHING gave them contentment and joy that being a home maker has. I am investing in the lives of my family and friends. I am serving God more now than when I clocked in at work.

    God may not always have this task for me, but for now, it’s what I am called to do and I’m loving it!

    Thanks for the wonderful post.

    • Hey TC, you’re absolutely right. We have seen a stark dualism between the spiritual versus the secular. I’ve learned that there is not one occupation is ‘full-time Christian ministry.’ In fact, there is no such thing as “part-time” but all of us are as Luther says “priesthoods of all believers.” This is the mentality that we have to understand – that vocation precedes and outlives your job. Vocation engages your whole being. Before you are called to something or someone, you are called by someone.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts brother.

      • Well said, Paul. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Very good post & informative. I believe God wants to redeem our work. The question is, will we let Him?

    • Thanks Dave! That’s a very valid question Dave. I think more often we use work as a source of our identity instead of our expression of His imagebearer. Work, though, places an important meaning and vocation in our lives, it is the secondary vocation which makes sense only in light of our primary vocation – that is to follow Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

  • Bevluvly

    I enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks for commenting and reading! 🙂

  • ChristyAna

    I love this article Paul! I love being part of missions work but am also very inspired by what can be done through business and social entrepreneurship. Hope more and more Christians catch this message and start to see their marketplace as their mission.

  • Nice write up Paul. We in western society segment things to often. Loved the post and working with all of our hearts is for sure an act of worship to God. Restoration of our work is something that we should be intentional about.

    • Great thoughts Zech. To be quite honest, I’ve felt the Lord asking me to study more about how we can use work as worship. So often people go back to Monday 9 to 5 resorting back to their busy lives forgetting the presence of God in their lives. I think the Gallup statistics exactly show this – that we all hunger for meaning and purpose in every facet of our lives, but unfortunately there is a disconnect here – a chasm between current reality and ideal work. I foresee a huge opportunity for Christians to influence here.

  • Monique So

    I love this post, Paul! My senior just raised a really good point with me today that is somewhat related to your post. This is what she said: “Many organizations are striving for work-life balance. Yet I got to say, it’s pretty sad if one does not see work as part of life, but rather something opposite of or segregated from life.” Please keep sharing!

  • SuzyQue

    I’m thankful to be a part of the 13%.

    And, to add to some of the earlier comments; work is a part of life. Might as well figure out how to enjoy it. It’s up to each of us.

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