Employee engagement is actually falling Just dont call it silent

Employee engagement is actually falling. Just don’t call it “silent quitting.” -Forbes

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Philly’buster – Woman relaxing in her hotel room


I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to rage about “Anger”. I didn’t sour so quietly to “quiet quietly”. And if another email about “quiet hiring” or some other perceived trend lands in my inbox, it goes straight to the junk folder.

That’s enough.

After three years of pandemic-related remote work, record layoffs, increased burnout, and now mass layoffs, I feel like there should be a name for the stress, turnover, and disruption of the last few years. Indeed, that may be why — not to mention the incessant cycle of journalists, social media posts, and PR guys repeating and circulating these terms — we won’t stop making up words about work , as Vox’s Rani Molla recently wrote.

But talk to anyone who leads HR teams, and you’ll get an eye roll — and a full ear — if you talk to any of them. People have always applied for new jobs – and yes, many at once – out of frustration in their current ones. “Quiet hiring” is internal mobility repackaged—which may sound like a sinister way to avoid hiring new employees, but it can also help reallocate underutilized employees who might otherwise be laid off.

“Why do [these terms] always have to be alliteration? Why does it have to be two words? I guess we like short-form communication,” said Paul Rubenstein, Visier’s chief people officer, in a recent interview. “None of them are really unique.”

Sure, engagement is lower than before. Gallup, the arbitrator for employee engagement, released its latest figures on Wednesday and sees the data falling further. In 2021, employee engagement in the US saw its first annual decline in ten years, falling from 36% of employees who were “engaged” (which is defined as a measure of how involved and enthusiastic employees are about their jobs) to 34% in 2021 .

This continued into 2022, Gallup reported Wednesday, with just 32% of full- and part-time workers still employed. The percentage of employees who were actively “disengaged” increased by two percentage points since 2021. Younger workers, women, and people whose work could be done remotely but had to be on-site every day — no surprise — saw the biggest falls in engagement.

But while the numbers have gotten worse — and possibly worse than they have been in a decade — it’s not like they’ve never been here. Gallup’s data shows that 32% is still over the line for how many workers were “engaged” between 2000 and 2013, with some years dipping into the mid-20s in percentage terms.

“People checked out forever at different stages of their careers and burned out — forever,” Amy Zimmerman, chief people officer at Relay Payments, told me recently. “It’s just the whole concept of engagement” — or disengagement.

The real question, of course, is which direction the line will go from here. If a severe recession worsens people’s relationship with their job and the line consistently falls below where engagement has hovered for the last 20 years, then maybe something fundamental has changed and deserves a new term. If things stay the way they are, or the threat of a recession reminds people that doing the bare minimum may not help keep their jobs, I’m not so sure.

In the meantime, let’s try to stop repeating these frightening terms. At a time of mass layoffs, ongoing gun violence and mental health issues, workers – and the people they manage – have bigger issues to focus on. Yes, companies fill positions with temporary workers or allocate employees to positions where they need them more urgently. People struggle with burnout and remain engaged in their work. And workers who are fed up are now – and always will be – looking for other jobs if their current job doesn’t fit. We don’t need a catchy name to talk about it.


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News from the world of work

Microsoft’s big AI bet: ChatGPT maker Open AI has received a “groundbreaking” multibillion-dollar investment from Microsoft, according to Bloomberg, as the tech giant ramps up its commitment to the viral artificial intelligence chatbot that could have a huge impact on the way we work.

Layoffs increase: Spotify has shed 6% of its jobs, and cuts recently hit 3M, crypto exchange Gemini, Alphabet and Wayfair. Tech stocks have soared as investors cheer massive job cuts announcements even as workers around the world face a job crisis, a survey of 35,000 workers shows. In January alone, nearly 60,000 people were laid off as big companies stepped up cuts.

A consultant for the Oval: Ron Klain, President Biden’s chief of staff, will be replaced by former Covid czar Jeff Zients, according to multiple reports. The former adviser will face a difficult task by managing a divided Congress, growing questions about Biden’s handling of classified documents and preparing for the 2024 election.

Another founder passes the baton: Netflix’s Reed Hastings is stepping down as co-CEO of the streaming service after a difficult year as one of the few founders of big tech companies still in office leaves the top job.

Ardern’s surprise resignation: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shocked the world when she announced her resignation, saying she no longer had “enough in the tank” to fulfill her leadership role. The decision sparked a flurry of commentary on women, leadership and burnout — about how other women might be dealing with the impact their association with the pandemic may have had on their careers.


An extension of our almost weekly book selection with links, surveys and other reading material from the Internet.

Deep work author and advocate of digital minimalism, Cal Newport, speaks to the New York Times about “slow productivity”, the problem of context switching and why working on the PC all day hasn’t really made employees more efficient.

Layoffs really are bad for companies, writes Bloomberg columnist Sarah Green Carmichael, citing surprisingly consistent research showing the downside for employers – and the people – who stay.

Jeff Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford University Business School — one of my favorite conversationalists about what companies are doing wrong when it comes to people management — speaks to Stanford News about why tech layoffs are so prevalent and the role “contagion” plays in their proliferation.

Performance coach Stefan Falk released a new book, Intrinsic Motivation: Learn To Love Your Work And Succeed As Never Before, on February 7th, which explores how becoming happier and more productive depends on finding intrinsic satisfaction in our work, rather than on external rewards.