Business minds have been talking a lot about “engagement” in the workplace lately. I’m sure each one of has brushed up against disengagement in one way of another. This is how Forbes wraps up Gallup’s latest survey findings:
Fewer than 1 in 3 (30%) of American workers are committed to the success of their organization and are engaged in their work. Over half (52%) are “disengaged”—defined as “less emotionally connected” and not willing to do any more than necessary to keep their job. Most alarming of all, nearly 1 in 5 workers are “actively disengaged”—actually against their organization, their boss or both.1
Yikes. As a business and community leader myself, this statistic is depressing. It tells me that we have a lot of work to do to activate the potential of those we work with and serve every day. A LOT of work.
It also strikes a chord. Deep in my gut, I know what it feels like to be on the other end of this data—the one in the room that is daydreaming of working anywhere but here, the one whose passions can never seem to be contained inside of a single job description. My business ebbs and flows with the seasons like all consulting firms do: sometimes I get antsy. When it’s slow, I get bored, feel underutilized, guilty for not working my tail off, and fall into a predictable funk. I want to contribute as much as I can, to do good work, like most people do. Yet, it is a rare scenario that every single day of our working lives will be purpose-filled and electrifying. Dammit.
So, when the disengaged person in the room is YOU, what do you do?
Here’s my way out:
- Self-Reflect: For me, self-reflecting takes the form of journaling. When I sit down at my desk in the morning and realize I’ve got a huge “boulder” clogging my mind, I take a few minutes to write it all out, literally clearing the boulder out of my way. Sounds like a waste of precious time, but those 15 minutes are probably the most effective way to getting my head on straight and show up fully.
Self-reflection allows your struggle to express itself, even when your inclination is to struggle against it. Give it a voice on paper. Validate your experience and your needs. I promise that bringing light to what ails you will lessen its pressure considerably. Sometimes, we just need to be heard. Even if only by ourselves.
- Connect with Your Gurus: My inner circle freaking rocks. When I notice my energy is apathetic or even angry at work, post-writing session, I immediately reach out to my most trusted personal friends and teachers. They may not know it, but I call them my “personal board of directors.” These women and men are people with whom I can fully express myself and know I’m safe. I can show them my ugly and they’ll still love me (a miracle, I know!). They my best interests at heart. They see my bigness, my heart, and my potential. Of course, they are much wiser than me.
Find your people who can give you the same room to learn. They will be your battery source. If you don’t have anyone now, that’s perfectly okay. Start looking for people you admire and trust, then cultivate a relationship. The best ones are mutually supportive. And they don’t happen by accident. Build your tribe.
- Let Yourself Be Known: Put yourself out there. Whether you will ride the wave within your current company or set your sites somewhere else, reaching out to new people brings fresh air into any situation. At one particularly stale point in my career, I decided to get involved in my community through volunteering. I’m now part of three incredible organizations that allow me to fulfill a need to contribute, while also putting me in front of a ton of strangers. These strangers, surprisingly, network for me! It’s incredibly energizing, and both my firm and I are reaping the rewards.
It all started because I put myself out there. I found something I was interested in, asked if I could help, and—surprise—I have a huge new community network that is satisfying my work and personal goals in unexpected ways. So, go surprise yourself. If there’s a nagging voice in your head to volunteer at a dog shelter, go do it! I dare you!
- Take Care: When we’re unhappy at work, it can be a red flag that we’re not taking care of ourselves. For me, I get my tush into yoga class multiple times a week. (You should thank me for that; I’m much less crazy when I do). I will take some deep breaths in the morning before I get out of bed, rather than obsess over my iPhone first thing. I take long walks on my lunch break. Because when it comes down to it, I know that my number one job is taking care of ME: what else is possible if I’m in poor working condition? Nothing. When I’m in good shape, so is my work.
This doesn’t mean you need to go on a radical health kick. Just restore some balance in your life. What gives you energy and joy and peace? Do more of that. If baking cookies makes you giggle like a child, please, go bake! Find your happy. You matter. Your work (and your team) needs you to be well taken care of. And it’s not their job to do it—it’s yours.
If you’re disengaged at work, your LIFE is calling. Start listening to that quiet hum inside of you. Nurture it.
- Warrell, Margie. (2013). “70% Disengagement” – 3 Ways To Engage Those Who Aren’t. Forbes. Retrieved from:http://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2013/06/07/70-disengagement-3-ways-to-engage-those-who-arent/