Survey: Vast majority of employees say they never work up to their potential

The majority of us are walking around in our offices feeling overwhelmed and under-qualified for the work we’ve been hired to do, according to a new survey.

The majority of us are walking around in our offices feeling overwhelmed and under-qualified for the work we’ve been hired to do, according to a new survey by tech firm Dropbox and educational company The School of Life. It’s a finding that should send alarm bells ringing to any manager placing their trust in teams to get the job done.

Survey: 1 in 5 employees are not working up to their potential

In the Dropbox survey’s 2,000 interviews with U.K. workers, researchers found that 68% of employees reported “feeling out of depth” at work. One in five employees said they felt they never worked up to their potential. More than half of employees estimated that they were not functioning their best at least one day a week.

And they don’t think they’re alone in this feeling. Respondents pointed fingers at their coworkers too. Respondents said that only 68% of their co-workers were good at their jobs, leaving us to wonder about the remaining 32% of colleagues implied to be incompetent.

The problem of disengaged workers

But maybe it’s not our fault for being unproductive at our jobs. The researchers theorized that employee disengagement may be due to poor management. “Often it’s not a lack of motivation causing this, more often it can be a lack of clarity — give team members clear roles and responsibilities and the chances are productivity and happiness will both rise,” The School of Life philosopher Brennan Jacoby said.

When values are set and expectations are clear, managers are putting employees in the best environment to thrive. U.K. workers are not the only demographic feeling unsatisfied and disengaged at work. Two-thirds of Americans only see their work as “just a job.”

Here’s the reality — we spend more of our waking days working than we do doing anything else. Recognizing that the vast majority of employees are spending the activity that they average 8.8 hours of their daily adult life doing on autopilot should be a call to action to employers that something is not working.

Disengaged employees are the bane of every workplace — they’re almost twice as likely to quit a job and are more likely to steal from the company, negatively influence their coworkers, and miss workdays, according to a Gallup surveys.

For a company to thrive, identifying and changing the minds of disengaged employees is not just an expression of goodwill — it’s also a sound business decision.

Monica Torres|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.