Last month I wrote an article, 5 Things Every Manager Needs To Know About Employee Engagement.
But now I want to send a wake-up call to individuals to let them know that engagement isn’t something to wait around for; it isn’t something you wait for someone to do to you, or for you.
You need to understand…
First, cut your boss some slack. Statistically speaking, your manager is actually the biggest variable when it comes to how you feel about work, but other variables include your own intrinsic motivation, and whether or not you have an internal or external locus of control. You can have a victim mentality and complain about everything that is wrong, or you can realize that there is no perfect situation and you need to figure out how to achieve the most, given the reality of the situation you’re in. And, to cite the cliché, you need to be part of the solution not just part of the problem.
Second, you need to care about engagement not because it makes your company more money (it does), but rather because it improves your quality of life and even the lives of your spouse and kids. Psychologists call it the spillover effect: your emotions at work carry over to your personal life, and even transfer to those around you. In my book Employee Engagement 2.0 I detail the research showing that engaged employees weigh less, experience fewer hospitalizations due to cardiac issues, have kids who are less likely to misbehave at school and even have more intimacy in their marriages!
Third, realize that parties, ping-pong and craft beer are over-rated; you want an engaging work environment instead. Employee engagement is the emotional connection one feels to their employer and its goals. Read that definition again, and notice it doesn’t mention fun, happy or even satisfied. If you’re having fun, great, but perk’s don’t move the needle on engagement.
Fourth, to increase your own engagement focus primarily on growth, recognition and trust. Based on research on over 10 million workers and on my own experience as a Best Place to Work winner, people primarily want to:
- Grow, be challenged, and to learn new things
- Feel appreciated by their boss and peers
- Believe that leadership has a vision and plan for a brighter future.
Fifth, you can “manage up”. I know, I know, you shouldn’t have to. But few us work for perfect bosses. And put yourself into their shoes for a minute. Were they given any training on how to lead people? Were they trained in employee engagement? Are they being pressured by their boss to get you engaged, or to get more tasks done with fewer resources?
When it comes to growth, you can manage up by asking for a short meeting with your boss. Ask her, “Here’s where I’m hoping to be in three to five years in my career. Do you think I have a shot at it? What would I have to learn in order to succeed with this career goal? What experiences would I need first?”
When it comes to recognition, manage up and around you by giving recognition yourself. Janice Kaplan has shared research showing that very few of us every say “thank you” to our boss. Catch your boss doing something right and make sure to thank her for it.
When it comes to trust and future vision, ask your boss for a few minutes of time to review for you the company’s big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) or at least its annual plan. Ask how your work contributes to achieving this goal.
As an individual contributor there is much that is out of your control. But I guarantee you’ll feel better if you try. Do this experiment and see if you don’t feel more engaged at work. End every day by asking yourself these five questions:
- What actions did I take today to learn and grow?
- Whom did I thank today, and who recognized me?
- Was I mindful today of our company’s long-term mission and goals?
- What did I do today to facilitate communication on my team?
- Today, how engaged was I at work?