5 Tips for Being Engaged at Work

Responsibility, empowerment, accountability, alignment, ownership,… key factors people use to describe their success at work and the same factors frustrated folks use to communicate their aggravation. What brings out the best in people professionally? How do you engage your team?

People perform at their best when they are engaged, attentive to a goal or motivation, and taking concentrated and focused action.  When this occurs in athletics, some call it being “in the zone”, rowers call it “swing”, others call it “flow.” In Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life, Mihali Csikszentmihalyi describes “flow” as being completely focused on your current activity, unaware of time, feeling in control, and being exceptionally productive.

Gallup Engagement
Gallup Engagement
  • "Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company.  They drive innovation and move the organization forward.”
  • "Not engaged employees are essentially ‘checked out.’  They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time—but not energy or passion—into their work.”
  • Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work, they’re busy acting out their unhappiness.  Every day these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.”

Based on their research, the Gallup Organization found only 27% of workers are engaged, while 59% are not engaged, and 14% are actively disengaged. Ouch!

How can I help unengaged workers become engaged workers? Do I just recruit and hire the one-in-four who are engaged?

My experience suggests that more than half of an individual’s behavior, including their level of engagement, is due to factors that are controlled by the organization, and especially the supervisor, they work for.

5 Tips for Getting Engaged

Here are factors that support engagement at work:

  1. A clear understanding of how an individual’s efforts are linked to the company’s goals and strategic direction.
  2. Recognition and positive reinforcement for work well done.
  3. A belief that the organization listens to them.
  4. Being accountable for the work they “own.”
  5. Feeling stretched and challenged.

If you are leading people who are not engaged, work with your team on the five basics for engagement at work mentioned above.

If you’re engaged at work, help others become engaged. If not, do something about it….

Are you actively disengaged? If so, quickly decide if you can change your attitude and perspective regardless of what others are doing. If not, get out, resign, quit.  You owe it to yourself and to those you’re trying to sabotage to make a change for the better.

Are you not engaged? Sincerely consider whether the root of your disengagement at work is from external factors or something inside of you.  If the answer is inside, take a look at9 Steps to Achieving Flow (and Happiness) in Your Work from ZenHabits.

If the answer is from the outside, consider talking with your manager about one or more of the following:

  • “What can I do to better align my individual efforts with the company’s goals and strategy?”
  • “I want to do a better job of being accountable for the work I’m doing.  What would be the best way for me to proactively update you?”
  • “I have some ideas on how we can improve things around here. I’d like to share them with you and also get your recommendations about who else I should share them with.”
  • Once your getting all the basics done… “I’m looking for a bigger challenge.  I’ve got some ideas for other projects I could take on, including… What do you think?”