Why Americans Are Becoming More And More Apathetic About Work

More and more young people are feeling disengaged from their work due to feeling undervalued, lacking proper mentorship, and because of a seeming absence of career growth opportunities.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

work quiet quitting employers and employees workers quit

The definition of good work ethic has evolved over the last decade. Gone are the days when employees voluntarily finished a project on a Saturday. Instead, a new study says large numbers of workers are not engaged with their jobs at all. This makes career advancement more difficult, while also harming the overall performance of the company that hired them.

A study by Gallup says employee engagement has fallen dramatically since 2020. Known as workplace apathy, the disconnect between employees and their jobs is most prevalent among young Millennials and Gen Z. The survey of 67,000 people found that only 32 percent are engaged with their work in 2022 compared to 36 percent in 2020.

The share of employees found to be actively disengaged has risen since 2020, while those considered not engaged stayed the same. According to NPR, work engagement steadily increased after the Great Depression. But after the pandemic, it started to fall. This is largely due to people under 35 feeling less heard and cared about at their jobs.

When asked to elaborate, the younger demographic said they don’t have mentors to encourage their development at work. There are also fewer opportunities to learn and grow. Speaking about workplace apathy, Gallup’s Chief Workplace Scientist, Jim Harter, said the disconnect can be due to employees becoming a little bit more like gig workers.

By nature, gig work doesn’t breed loyalty or long-term relationships between workers and employers. As a result, people may feel less motivated to put their best selves forward. “In the context of high-performance customer service and retaining your best people… It’s becoming a problem,” Harter said. Additionally, people whose work needs aren’t being met often share their negativity with other people.

That could bring down company morale. Interestingly, engagement is lacking among onsite, hybrid, and fully-remote employees. But the biggest declines were among “remote-ready onsite workers.” Those are staffers who could do their jobs from home but work from the office. However, there are troubling findings with fully remote workers too.

According to the survey, most remote workers are somewhere between engaged and actively disengaged which is similar to quiet quitting. Meanwhile, people across different categories all saw declines in feeling connected to the work and purpose of their organizations. Clarity of expectations was also lower across the groups, NPR reports.

Additionally, the number of people who said their company cares about their overall well-being has fallen to 25 percent. That figure was at about 50 percent early in the pandemic. That’s when many companies introduced all kinds of work accommodations for employees. As quiet quitting and real quitting spikes, Stephanie Frias says companies are having a reckoning.

“I think companies are realizing that feeling appreciated is paramount for people to feel engaged and connected at work,” Frias, who is the Chief People Officer at Lyra Health, told NPR. Feeling engaged is not just about the work. It’s also about instilling meaning in that work, which is something a lot of companies need to rectify. “It will be a journey and a ride,” she said.