Bored employees, employees who report having "too little work", are more disgruntled and lead to more negative consequences (for themselves and their employers) than overworked employees, those reporting "too much work." This is the conclusion of new research released by Sirota Survey Intelligence.
While overwork is an undeniable issue for both employees and organizations, Sirota's findings suggest that the bored employees - encompassing 14% of the more than 1 million employees surveyed - create the more serious business challenge.
Following are a few outtakes from the research. While none of these findings are particularly surprising, combined they begin to drive home the significance of the "boredom at work" problem.
- Bored employees are less satisfied with their jobs. Only 50% of employees with "too little work" report being satisfied with their jobs compared to 81% of employees with “about the right amount of work”.
- Bored employees don't get a sense of accomplishment from their jobs. Only 38% of employees with "too little work" get a personal feeling of accomplishment from their jobs, compared to 73% of employees with “about the right amount of work”.
- Bored employees are not as proud of where they work. 51% of employees with "too little work" report being proud of their employers, compared to 76% of employees with "about the right amount of work".
- Bored employees feel less encouraged to be innovative. Only 43% of those with "too little work" feel that they are encouraged to be innovative at work, compared to 65% of employees with "about the right amount of work".
Interestingly, Sirota notes that employees reporting "too much work" are almost as favorable on the above dimensions as those reporting "about the right amount of work".
With all the furor and debate about employee engagement these days, this seems to me to be a more fundamental and critical problem. How can we expect all of our employees to be "engaged "(whatever that means - and don't worry, I'm not even going to go there ...) when more than 10% are not even given enough work to keep them challenged and occupied? We should not underestimate the potential negative impact of being under-challenged and under-occupied on an employee's morale. Does an employee in these circumstances feel valued and respected? And isn't feeling valued and respected a pre-requisite to any level of engagement in the workplace?
To some extent, this is a workdesign problem. It is also a performance management problem and potentially an employee development problem as well. But, at its core, it is a problem of squandering part of an organization's most important assets - its human capital. While there may be good and defendable reasons for the under-utilization of some of these employees, I would be willing to bet that the majority of these 140,000 individuals represent talent, knowledge, skills and relationships that their employers have simply left untapped.
And it's a shame.