Monday, March 25, 2019

Are you disengaged?

There is an old saying that goes something like this....

"It's not bragging, if you can back it up"

There is some truth to this, but the word "bragging" brings up thoughts of arrogance and no one likes to work with a cocky, arrogant, difficult person. No...that's not the type of bragging I'm talking about. If you're read my previous blog posts, you know I'm all about teamwork, collaboration, servitude, customer service, and the human aspect of leadership. We live in a very curious time. Social media allows us to put up a very convincing facade. We can brag about our fancy degrees, certifications, and accomplishments. Post up pictures of ourselves in highly interesting situations. We can make our lives seem so perfect that others envy us, which is exactly what some people want.

Since this blog is titled "Unavailing Logic", lets apply some. Would anyone put something in a resume or on social media that wasn't bragging about their accomplishments or abilities? No one is going to put up, "I'm lazy and don't like to work". While that might be true for them, they aren't going to tell the world. No one knows more about the person looking back at you in the mirror than you. Yet we seem to place so much value on what others think of us. As if we need their validation to confirm the hard work and dedication we've put into our career. Our actions should speak for themselves, yet many, including myself, feed off of the praise of others. A pat on the back, an "atta boy", or any sincere praise from leadership is a huge motivator. Now, I'm not talking about the occasional goofy certificate you get for 5 years of service, or some corporate recognition program that systematically "rewards" as many people in the company as possible to "boost morale". And I'm certainly not talking about being patronized.  No, I'm talking about true, heartfelt, sincere appreciation for you and the work you do, and the person you are. This type of recognition is very rare. Good leaders are in tune with their direct reports and learn what motivates them. They don't take a one size fits all approach to praise and recognition. They give each employee what they want and desire. Like I's very rare when you have a true leader who understands the importance of employee moral, attitude, drive, desire, and accomplishment. An employee seen as a "bare minimum" performer may simply feel unheard, unused, unappreciated, passed over, and unchallenged. Basically, they're bored. Leaders need to make sure their employees are engaged and that not only their monetary needs are met, but their emotional ones as well. Perhaps I'll do a blog post on Emotional Intelligence in leadership, it's really important, but outside the scope of this post.

The above Gallup survey show only 13% of employees are fully engaged in their work. 13 people out of 100 are engaged. That overshadows the old "80/20" rule where 20% do 80% of the work. Apparently it's only 13%.

What About Me?
So what about you? If your boss asks you, "are you engaged?". Of course, you're going to give a resounding "heck yeah!", "I'm a team player", "I get things done", etc, etc, etc. But if you aren't engaged, that's more of the facade mentioned above. And frankly, if you work for a boss that has to ask, look for a new job. He or she is not a very good boss. While a good leader always asks for honest feedback, that's not what I'm talking about here. A good leader should have a PLAN to engage every employee. They should set aside time to talk with each of their direct reports and LISTEN to them. A leaders #1 job is providing their team with what they need to be successful. Any leader who is "too busy", "doesn't have time", "just got caught up in things", heading down a wrong road with their team. What they are really saying to you is, "I care more about my career than I can about yours". Some may see no problem with this, but if you find yourself as one of those disengaged employees, you know how awful it is to work in that state. How it breeds negativity. How complaining, dread, and even avoidance of work creep in, eventually harming your company and possibly your career. And if you are an employer who has leaders who allow employees to be disengaged, it's costing you a LOT of money.

I've spoken with several people who are disengaged employees. These are some of the things they've said to me:

"I just come in and do my time"

"My boss doesn't listen to me, so I just keep my mouth shut and do what they tell me"

"I've taken sick days because I've hated my job so bad I was physically ill"

"I tell everyone new, just sit down, keep your mouth shut, and do what you're told and you'll have a job here forever. If you speak up, they'll run you out"

"They [leadership] don't care about people in this place. Just themselves"

"I just want to do my work and go home and not think about this place until the next day"

 As someone who has spent the last 15 years of my career in a leadership role, studying leadership, and seeing first hand how important the human aspect of business is...these quotes are very frustrating and saddening.

So as an employee, what can you do if you find yourself in this situation? Here's some advice:
  1. Take inventory
    • Do you have a good education? 
    • Have you been successful in other endeavors (service organizations, church leadership positions, etc.)?
    • What are your major accomplishments?
    • Were you happy in other jobs under different leadership?
    • What skills and abilities make you marketable in the open job market?
    • Get your positive mental attitude in order!! We can't control the circumstances, but we can control our attitude and our effort.
  2. Ask for feedback
    • Before you write your bad boss off, try to talk to them.
    • Ask for specific examples of things you can do better
      • If your boss gives you the old "you're going a good job" or "we need ya buddy" pattern answer, there is no reason to continue the discussion. EVERYONE can improve, and a good boss will always want to provide you with valuable feedback and an ACTION PLAN to help you achieve your career goals.
    • It may be better to chat outside the office. Go to lunch, have a cup of coffee before work, a beverage after work. As his direct report, you should be one of your bosses top priorities....even over his or her own boss. 
  3. Have a Plan
    • If you've done #2 and things didn't work out, then you are ready to move forward. 
    • You know your skills and abilities. Your wants and desires.  
    • Dream up your ideal job. What do you WANT to do? How do you want to be treated?
    • People network! I can't emphasize this enough. The human side of business is the most important aspect. Regardless of what you do, you're really a salesman, and your product is YOURSELF. Always be selling!
    • Seek out companies that have a reputation for being the type of place you see yourself. 
      • Don't just apply blindly for jobs!
      • Don't settle. Jumping from the frying pan to the fire does you no good.
      • Try to find contacts who work there. Get to know them. 
      • Let the leadership team know you are seeking them out and want to be part of their success. 
    • Make a talk track about yourself. Always be ready for an "interview".
  4. Learn to Serve
    • Yes...really!
    • If you want to work for a servant leader, someone who has empathy for his team and wants them to succeed, you too must have a servant heart.
    • Servant leaders are servants in their private life too. To find them, you have to meet them where they see you as an equal. Serve along side them. Show them your work ethic. 
    • Being involved in your community and helping others will repay you more than you can imagine. Maybe not in money, but trust me, your cup will be full.
  5. Don't let others define you
    • Get demoted? Passed over for a promotion? Didn't get that internal job you applied for and they guy they hired had half your skill and experience?
    • It's not always your fault. 
    • Know your skills, know your worth
    • Always stay positive (sometimes it's hard, and you will backslide into negativity)
  6. Step it up
    • As silly as it sounds, work harder at that job you're so disengaged in.
    • If you've written off your employer and are planning on leaving the last thing you want to do is make them grateful you left. Show them how good you are. Leave on a high note.
    • Always make sure you are "eligible for rehire" even if you never plan on working there again.
  7. Never burn bridges
    • Most leaders are promoted because they were good workers, but no one ever taught them how to be good leaders. This doesn't make them bad people. 
    • As much as you want to rant on why you're leaving, don't.
      • Even in an "exit interview",  keep your comments brief and generic. 
      • Smile, say thank you, and be polite and professional
      • Stay positive! The old "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything" applies here.
    • Don't poison the well
      • Your former co-workers are still working there. Don't bring them down with negative comments or gleeful celebration about your departure.
    • Don't be the victim
      • You're leaving for a better opportunity, not because the "company treated me bad". No one likes a victim.
As of this writing, unemployment is at a record low. The economy is expanding and employers are looking for great people. Enjoy the free market! Don't stay at a job where you aren't engage. Don't work where you feel unappreciated, unimportant, or under utilized. Don't continue to be a part of the problem plaguing much of the workplace. You're better than that!

Don't be intimidated by all the social media ninjas out there. They aren't as good as they seem. If you've worked hard, earned your skills, and get a thrill out of success, you're just as good as any social media salad someone posts up. Those who do great things don't do so by standing in line with everyone else. Be different. Stand out. Get positive and get moving. Your life is yours and what you make it. Make it great!

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