Why So Many Disengaged Employees?

This is my thirty-fourth weekly Blog regarding the state of leadership in America. A USA Today June 30, 2013 article titled, “Americans hate their jobs, even with perks,” gave a short overview of a Gallup “State of the American Workforce Report” for 2013. Gallup surveyed more than 150,000 employees during 2012 and the results are alarming: Only 30 percent of American workers are engaged and committed at work, 52 percent come to work but dread facing the reality of another day of dull assignments and working for an awful boss, and 18 percent of workers are completely disengaged and actually spreading discontent throughout the workforce. Estimates of approximately $500 Billion annually in lost productivity are evidence of the seriousness of the problem of disengaged workers who dislike or hate their jobs and boss. To combat this situation, some businesses instituted an array of perks from nap pods to massages with only limited success. As I’ve said in several of my blogs especially “The Intolerable Boss Part I and II,” the source of this worker discontentment is the poor leader who wreaks havoc in the office and on the shop floor every workday. Let’s be clear, there is no amount of perks that will compensate for having to deal with an awful boss. However, we can’t overlook the fact that this poor leader is the product of the pseudoscientific approach to leadership where the accepted premise is that everyone can be made into a good leader by just following leadership gurus’ step-by-step formulas, which are heralded as the panacea of our leadership ills and will usher in the promised land of good leaders. This Gallup report is simply more evidence that it’s time to discard this debilitating belief and instead, seek out ways to identify, select, and develop natural born leaders who have the leadership DNA or innate talent to provide the leadership needed in the workplace to reengage the American workforce and radically improve productivity. The answer to our disengaged workers and poor leaders is not more archaic and barren formulas, it’s admitting that what we have been doing for generations to create good leaders has failed and we must move in a new direction; one where we regard leadership not as a commonplace skill that can be learned by anyone, but rather a recognized and prized innate talent that is critical to the success of our nation. How many more Gallup reports will we need to break free of the pseudoscientific approach to leadership and convince ourselves of the need to change? At what percentage of workforce disengagement and job hatred will we finally see the need to change? How many more billions in lost productivity will have to occur before we change? How long will we continue to focus on the symptoms of poor leadership instead of the poor leadership itself? The answers are within our grasp. All we need is the will and commitment to move in a different direction; one where we acknowledge the importance of innate leadership and realize that it doesn’t come with a prescription from the multitude of leadership Ph.D. gurus who pied-pipe their particular brand of leadership elixir.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Defense and Army in numerous leadership positions, including being a US Army officer and a human resources director. Mr. Okum has written ”Leadership DNA,” a provocative and useful guide book allowing readers to broaden their understanding about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. This guide book shows you the various aspects of leadership, including examining good leaders’ behavior patterns as well as learning how to achieve your objectives and deal with poor managers that can potentially cripple you and your organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and Leadership DNA, visit

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