Gallup recently released the third iteration of their comprehensive employee engagement report titled The State of the American Workplace Report. In it, they use data collected from almost 200,000 U.S. workers in the past 2 years to help leaders understand those factors that influence employee engagement in the workplace. While the report is lengthy and packed with data, insights, and numerous suggestions for increasing engagement, one statistic stood out to me above all others:

73% of Actively Disengaged employees are searching for new jobs or watching for openings. This is twice the number of engaged employees (who are much less likely to leave).

Actively disengaged employees are those folks who are so disenfranchised that they are cancerous to the workplace. They act out their unhappiness on the job, causing a multitude of issues for supervisors. Specifically, many actively disengaged employees stoke conflict, keep score, provide poor service, and have more time and attendance issues. Engaged employees, on the other hand, are those folks who give their all every day. They care and try because of an emotional and psychological commitment to their work. They are your rock star employees.

Now, you might be thinking “Great! I want to get rid of my actively disengaged troublemakers, so let them go! Good riddance!”

That’s not the point. This is …

What is your pool of candidates going to look like when one of your ENGAGED employees decides to move on?

This data suggests that every time a leader, at any level, has to conduct a search and fill a position, they will be forced to wade through a collection of candidates which will contain more toxic disrupters than ever before. And because many actively disengaged employees are masters of disguise, they often are impossible to spot. Only after they join your team and move through an adjustment period are they likely to start acting out. And now you’re stuck, because removing someone never happens quickly.

Allow this data to serve as a warning and as a reminder: Now more than ever before, leaders must commit to nurturing engagement and retaining talent. This requires additional knowledge, new skills, and a variety of tools. If you aren’t supporting your front-line leaders with training and coaching on how to be engagement-minded supervisors, suffering is looming.

Want to learn what bosses must do to consistently and successfully create the conditions for engagement in the workplace? This can help.

Joe Mull, M.Ed, is a leadership trainer and keynote speaker. He works with healthcare organizations that want their practice leaders to engage, inspire, and succeed. To learn more or bring Joe to your site, visit