It’s estimated that 70% of U.S. workers are disengaged. If I were to ask everyone reading this if you’ve ever felt disengaged at your job, I think that every hand would go up. Do a Google search and you’ll find a plethora of articles, research and experts and so on, all weighing in on this topic.

Employee engagement has become the holy grail in today’s workplace. Companies everywhere are scrambling to figure out how to gain more productivity and loyalty from their employees. They’re doing studies and hiring consultants, they’re doing employee surveys and anything else they can think of. Meanwhile, employees everywhere are trying to figure out how to not hate their jobs. As I said, I think everyone has experienced disengagement at some point. To a certain degree, it's normal. There are going to be peaks and valleys at every job. But when it becomes chronic, that’s a problem. When we start buying into the idea that "work is just work" and you aren't supposed to enjoy it, we do ourselves a huge disservice.

First, let’s define engagement. I think that most people would define it as being more than just physically present at your job, but also emotionally present. And those are two really different things. Does engagement equate to productivity? If you are engaged, does that mean you enjoy your job? And whose responsibility is it to make sure that employees are engaged, anyway?  The managers? HR? The CEO? There are so many questions to answer here and employers are trying to do research and find solutions. To me, it’s pretty simple though. If you find yourself not caring, complaining and generally daydreaming about working somewhere else, you are probably disengaged.

So, if you are disengaged, the question now is what’s causing it and what do you want to do about it? A lot of things can cause us to distance ourselves mentally and emotionally from our jobs. Maybe you’re bored and under-challenged. Maybe you don’t have a good relationship with your boss. Maybe the company isn’t doing well, and rumors are spreading of layoffs. The list goes on.

So, here’s the thing. Most of these factors are out of your control. You can’t control your boss, you can’t control how well the company is doing, you can’t control your co-workers. If you are trying to control any of those things, please stop. I want you to surrender and give up control of all of those things. Focus on the one thing you can control: YOU. I don’t know about you, but I like to feel like I’m in control.

At the end of the day, whose responsibility is it for you to be engaged? It’s yours, of course. It’s a choice and a commitment that only you can make. Now, that doesn’t mean employers don’t have an obligation to create a positive working space, but it’s your decision as to how you want to show up in that space.

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So here are your action steps for increasing your engagement:

  1. Take responsibility for your own engagement. And don’t do it for anyone but yourself. Be engaged at your job because you like the way it feels, not because you think your boss wants you to. We’re most motivated to make changes that we want to make. Anything else is an obligation and no one likes to do things they are obligated to do. Are you being proactive, initiating career discussions and having an open dialogue with your employer? This alone can help.

  1. Focus on what you DO like about your job. Some of the disengagement you are experiencing may come from your employer, but much of it may be coming from you.  Can you say that you give equal weight and value to the positive aspects of your job?  Are you grateful for the income it provides you? Are you grateful for skills you’ve learned? For the people that you’ve met? Make a list right now of at least 10 things that are good about your current job. Don’t think you come up with 10? Try.  I promise that exercise alone will do wonders.

  1. Follow your curiosity. Do more than the minimum. Be open to the possibility that your current job could transform itself somehow. Maybe you’ll get a transfer, a new boss or be assigned to a different project. If these opportunities don't present themselves, then ask your employer if they could. If you don’t follow your curiosity and if you don’t take responsibility for your happiness at work, how will those opportunities find you?

My challenge for you is this: Be engaged, be present and do your best even if it’s difficult. Especially when it’s difficult. That’s when it counts. Even if you don’t think the company notices or appreciates it. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Do it because it feels good. It feels a hell of a lot better than being disengaged and disgruntled.
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