The Disengagement Factory

Can you remember your first "real" job? I don't mean the one where you worked at a grocery, a movie theater, or a telemarketing agency (I worked at all three). I mean your first job out of college where you had to write cover letters, interview, and negotiate a salary. I remember mine vividly. After graduating college with honors and a dual B.A. in business management and economics from UC Santa Cruz, I ended up working at a technology company in downtown L.A. I was still living at home with my parents, but was very excited to land my first job. During the interview I was told I'd be going to business development meetings, traveling, meeting influential people, and helping to grow the company. Sounded amazing! I was even willing to forego the 1.5 hour commute each way to and from work. After months of working there I was stuck doing data entry, powerpoint presentations, and cold-calling. I was officially disengaged. This is a story and experience that all too many employees around the world face. Our companies have become "disengagement factories."


I fundamentally believe that we are not born disengaged, we BECOME disengaged. People don't apply for jobs with the idea that their hopes, dreams, passions, and aspirations will never be fulfilled. No, quite the contrary. We all get excited about new opportunities, we want to work for great companies, we want to have an impact, and we look forward to challenges and overcoming them. But in between that excitement and our ability to actually live out that excitement, something happens. We become faced with bureaucracy and office politics, we learn that we stand at the bottom of the corporate "food chain," the work we end up doing is nothing like the work we thought we would do, we get our first taste of true hierarchy and authority, and rarely do we feel like anything we do has an impact. Everything we know about how, why, and where work gets done has been based on the theories and approaches of people who have long seen passed away. Most of these people have never seen the internet, an iPhone, a tablet device, or even a computer. Why then do we still run our organizations as if nothing has changed?

We take these engaged, motivated, driven, and passionate employees, put them through the ringer, and then our organizations spit out these disengaged and disenchanted people. Should we really be shocked that 83 percent of employees around the world are not engaged in their jobs or that the freelancer economy is growing as a viable and practical revenue stream for "non-traditional" employees? Why can't most of our organizations around the world be engagement factories instead of disengagement factories? Why can't we take employees, put them through our organizations and create even more passionate, engaged, and curious employees who are actually excited about showing up to work every day?

Organizations have lost their way. They assume that employees need to work there because they have bills to pay and they need the money. This is the one assumption about our organizations that has always remained true and unchallenged. However today we are realizing that this is wrong. Organizations must create an environment where people want to be there instead of creating an environment where they assume people need to be there. Organizations can no longer afford to operate like disengagement factories. These types of companies will either have to shut their doors or transform.

The era of the disengagement factory is over.

Jacob Morgan is a futurist, best-selling author and keynote speaker, learn more by visiting The Future or check out his latest book,"The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders and Create a Competitive Organization," on Amazon.

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