Why So Blue? Study Finds Low IT Worker Engagement

While green has been the color du jour lately — given the trendiness of environmentally friendly products and solutions — the color of note in IT today is an alarming shade of blue. A recent study by global consulting firm BlessingWhite showed that IT has low employee engagement compared to other industries.

“The State of Employee Engagement 2008,” which surveyed more than 7,500 workers on four continents, showed that just 23 percent of IT workers are fully engaged. Compare this to other departments — such as HR consulting/training with 46 percent engagement and energy/utilities at 40 percent — and it begs the question, what’s making IT workers so unhappy?

According to industrial-organizational psychologist Patrick M. McCarthy, Ph.D., J.D., this low engagement is due to the combination of the nature of the job itself and the personalities of the workers who tend to choose IT.

“IT can be a pretty wide range of tasks. But for many of those folks, the tasks can be very reactive versus strategic,” explained McCarthy, who is an associate professor and graduate program coordinator at Middle Tennessee State University, as well as a senior consultant at the Center for Organizational and Human Resource Effectiveness. “If you’re just chasing a series of unrelated crises and having to dive into one technical task after another, [a] sense of meaningfulness is really hard to get out of that on a day-to-day basis.”

Meaningfulness and a sense of control over one’s work are key to engagement, McCarthy said. But…

Meagan Polakowski


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