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KPBS Midday Edition

8 Percent Of The Workforce Is Disengaged, Report Finds

A dog stands watch while at work with her owner in an office in California, June 11, 2012.
Associated Press
A dog stands watch while at work with her owner in an office in California, June 11, 2012.

'Workplace Prisoners' Aren't Motivated, But Don't Want To Leave
'Workplace Prisoners' Aren't Motivated, But Don't Want To Leave GUEST: John Asdell, regional vice president, Robert Half

There's no name for those unmotivated employees that will not leave their job workplace prisoners. That term comes from a study by human resources consulting firm. Disengaged workers leave on their own for more motivating work but these prisoners date and their work suffers. Midday edition producer Michael Lipkin spoke with John as Dell at the staffing agency about people who may feel change to the at their desks. What is your experience about these workplace prisoners? I think it is interesting. I don't know if it is a new phenomenon. Is workplace happiness and a serious business. Satisfied workers are more productive and they are very critical to building that Colbert culture that all of the companies in San Diego and worldwide are looking for. I think the important thing what the workplace prisoners as they are called is that they can have a negative impact on the overall productivity even without being vocal. Just bringing the overall culture down. It is important for companies here in town to reengage this group of their population inside the company and find ways either to reengage them or reposition them in a different career that makes them happier. Why might some of the people not engaged stay at the job. These workplace prisoners are staying. There is a lot of reasons why somebody may feel like they have to stay in their position. They are afraid of what their options would be outside of that company. In some cases they been with that firm long enough and they feel like they may not be more outside of that company. What I went suggest and what we've seen is that it's never too late to go and explore a happier environment for yourself. You mention that businesses are concerned about these types of employees go why should they be concerned beyond the potential decrease in productivity that these individual employees may bring to the workplace? That question is best answered by people thinking about their own experiences coming into the office and maybe there's one or two people moping around that brings down the entire mood of the office and you compare that to a day where multiple people are in good moods and impacts how that individual approach is there day and that -- extrapolate that to a corporate culture and if people are coming to work every day and surrounded by coworkers that are demotivated and are watching the clock and getting through the day, they take an assessment of their own job and that's in a place where people want to be investing their time and talents. They said it is possible for the is engage workers to improve. Some say that their managers don't encourage them to do their best and if they got more encouragement they might not be as disengaged. What can bosses help with engagement quite Organizations pay a lot of attention to people that are joined the firm recently. They are [ Indiscernible ] and the encouragement and once some of the more employees become tenured the assumption is there fine, they are good. They know we love them and I think that that's a big mistake. I think it's re-engaging the employee base and being very vocal about making sure people know that they are appreciated for their hard work and successful work. Having an ongoing conversation about career path management for them and being clear with what the various opportunities are for them. Robert came out with their own study with workplace happiness. Word to the happiest employees work? We surveyed 12,000 workers across the USA and Canada and recently released the results and to your question where are they working? There was a large difference in size of company and so the happiest workers were with companies with 10 or fewer employees. Conversely the noise numbers were with very large organizations. We categorized as 10,000 or more employees so it was very interesting and I think that's a big take away specifically for what we look at our population in Senegal and the types of companies that we have. We Artown that has a lot of small to midsize business and the wonderful thing about working and living in San Diego is that we have a spirit here and luckily for us the majority of our companies are in this category. So it is good for us. Those were 35 to 54 said they were the least happy, the most stressed out in the most interested in their work. What we know about why they appear to not be very happy other jobs? Generally, it has to do with are they being career path to interesting opportunities inside of that company? Number one factor that came out of the study was are the workers being given meaningful work. To they have the ability to learn new things? Is their work worthwhile? To the take pride in the organization in that group the scores were lower. There's also an element of the tenor levels are higher and so maybe they might fall potentially into what we would call that workplace prisoners category. That was Robert Half regional Vice President speaking with Michael Lipkin.

There's a new name for unmotivated employees who just won't leave their jobs: "workplace prisoners."

The term comes from a study last month by human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt. Disengaged workers typically leave on their own for more rewarding work, but these "prisoners" remain and their work suffers, according to Aon.

According to the study, these employees make up about 8 percent of the global workforce, and that more tenured, competitively paid workers are more likely to behave this way.

“These employees may be interested in leaving, but they do not look for opportunities elsewhere because they have done the research and have found that they are being paid more than they are worth in the open market,” the report said. “As a result, they sit tight.”

Staffing agency Robert Half released a related survey last month on workplace happiness, which found people working in companies with 10 or fewer employees reported the highest happiness levels. People working in companies with 10,000 or more employees had the lowest happiness. It also found that Generations Xers, people 35 to 54, are the least happy, most stressed out and least interested in their work.

“You come across people who aren’t engaged for variety of reasons,” Robert Half San Diego regional vice president John Asdell said. “The population is relatively small, though no matter how small, they weigh down the whole organization.”

Asdell joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday with more on what companies can do to better motivate workers.