“That’s not my job,” are some of the most toxic words to say in the workplace. It’s a response that provokes negative feelings for people on both sides of the ask. The person needing help is offended by the dismissive attitude of the not-my-jobber, and the person being asked is resentful at the prospect of taking on more work.

To be sure, cultivating a company culture of teamwork is important. After all, every employee’s contribution goes toward the overall goal of making the company a success. But clearly defining employee responsibilities and setting boundaries is equally vital. You wouldn’t want to pay an engineer to water the office plants.

But beyond balancing employee responsibilities and setting boundaries, when I hear someone say, “Not my job,” I see it as a canary in a coal mine, an indication of employee disengagement.

What does that mean? Forbes defines employee engagement as “the emotional commitment an employee has to their company and its goals.” An engaged employee cares about how their work contributes to the company’s goals — and will go the extra mile to get the job done right.

Besides the obvious benefit of having happier employees, research shows a clear correlation between strong employee engagement and higher profits. Engaged employees lead to higher levels of service or productivity, which leads to higher customer satisfaction and increased sales.

Conversely, poor employee engagement can be ruinous for a company’s bottom line. Like a rotten apple spoiling the entire barrel, disengagement is contagious. Someone who isn’t pulling their weight adds to the stress of the rest of the staff, with a direct loss in profit. Disengaged employees also have higher safety-incident and absenteeism rates, both of which contribute potentially huge costs to the company.

According to the most recent Gallup figures, only about 32% of the U.S. workforce said they were engaged with their jobs. Approximately 51% reported being disengaged, while nearly 17% said they were “actively disengaged.” That means an astounding two-thirds of America’s workforce are either just clocking in and out or are miserable at work and actively sowing seeds of discontent.

What’s the solution? According to experts, one of the primary factors affecting engagement is the manager. A good manager sets their team up for success, offers constructive feedback, and is held accountable for meaningful progress. Companies will find that these key employees are worth their weight in gold.

I think the aquatics industry has already caught on to this, largely due to the need to inculcate vigilance in the young people serving as lifeguards. Have you had success in sustaining high employee engagement or served under a manager who has inspired you to give your best? If so, drop me a line and let me know.