More than half of employees are "not bothered" about their work, as the result of corporate scandals eroding their trust in senior leaders.
This is according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which published its latest Quarterly Employee Outlook report today.
The survey, which polled 2,000 UK workers' engagement and attitudes to their professional lives, found that 58% of employees show signs of a "not bothered" attitude to their work. By contrast, only 36% trust their senior leaders.
The CIPD said that the findings reflect the impact of recent corporate scandals, which have eroded employees' relationships with their organisations and leaders, and warned that long-term employee engagement could be at risk.
Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive, said: "Given the number of examples reported in the media in recent months of unethical behaviours and corrosive cultures overseen by senior leaders, it is perhaps unsurprising to see trust in the workplace eroding. What's worrying is the impact this will have on engagement. We know that strong employee engagement drives higher productivity and better business outcomes, so such a prominent display of 'neutral engagement' in the workplace should act as a real wake up call for employers.
"Now more than ever, organisations need to pay close attention to the impact the behaviours of senior leaders is having on the rest of the workforce and consider how they can improve corporate culture from the top down. The HR profession is uniquely positioned to help organisations properly understand existing cultures and behaviours, to re-examine and re-define corporate values and to revisit the way in which those values are reinforced, incentivised and rewarded through the day-to-day behaviours by managers - from the very top, down to the front line.
"Employees also need to believe their views are respected and that they have a voice in the organisation, otherwise there is a risk that when things go wrong, no one tells the executive team until it is too late. Just as importantly, empowered and engaged employees are able to provide customer inspired innovation and ensure organisations' products and services adapt quickly to take advantage of fast changing markets."
The survey also found that just 24% of employees feel consulted by senior managers about key issues that affect the business, and only 40% are satisfied with the opportunities that exist to feed their views and ideas upwards to senior managers.
The CIPD findings contrast with the results of a survey also released today by the CBI and recruiter Harvey Nash, which found that management and employees are working together to overcome challenging business conditions.
According to the Facing the Future Employment Trends Survey, which surveyed 319 businesses employing 1.9 million people in the UK, 67% of respondents said employee relations in their workplace are either "cooperative" or "very cooperative", with staff remaining resilient despite the economic climate. Furthermore, 40% of firms described morale as "high" or "very high".
Katja Hall, CBI chief policy director, said: "In the UK, we have a good story to tell about collaboration in the workplace during the worst of the economic crisis. By working pragmatically and flexibly together, employers and employees have been able to safeguard and create jobs.
"With two-thirds of businesses reporting high levels of cooperation in their workplace, employers clearly understand the value of engaging their employees and keeping them informed about business challenges being faced.
"The interests of employees, employers, and the economy as a whole will continue to be best served by maintaining these positive employment relationships. Businesses do not recognise the more adversarial, political rhetoric being adopted by some unions as representing the reality on the ground."
XpertHR has further information on employee engagement, including guidance from CIPD organisation development and engagement adviser Angela Baron and a good practice guide on how to measure employee engagement.