It is a well-documented fact that the levels of engagement among U.S. workers have been historically low over the years, hovering at around less than one third of the workforce. This picture is even less heartening when one studies employee engagement at a global level.
You’ve probably heard the story of the reporter who asks a CEO, “How many employees work in your company?” to which the CEO promptly replies, “Just about half of them”.
The punchline is funny. The truth behind it, not so much. About 70% of the workforce in the United States is probably struggling at this point with one or different aspects of low engagement – “why is there so much politics in this place?”, “why is my boss such a jerk?”, “what do I need to do to get a promotion around here?”, “nobody seems to care in this office”. The examples could keep going ad infinitum.
There is solid evidence to suggest that low engagement negatively impacts employee retention. With the passing of time, the weight of an unengaging workplace will be far too heavy for one to bear, causing them eventually to pursue an exit strategy.
There are however many employees who, for a variety of reasons, may choose to stay, at least as an initial option. These reasons may involve factors such as family obligations, mobility limitations, comp & benefits or, as evidenced in many people I have coached over the years, an inner desire to, somehow, make a positive impact and “change things for the better”.
This article is dedicated to those employees who are not engaged, are not looking – at least not yet – to “call it quits” and wish to embrace the challenge and positively influence the work environment.
One may be asking, “How do I do this”? Here are a few ideas to think about.
Be an example
Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer put it simply, “Example is leadership.” Demonstrating, by example, behaviors reflective of a good work environment will influence others to move in a similar direction.
Focus on the positives
Why is the glass half full and not half empty? Because one chose to look at it that way. It is your choice to focus on that which is good. This does not mean you should ignore the negative. It is simply a matter of emphasis. After the rain, do you focus more on the mud on your shoes or the rainbow in the sky? Pick the rainbow.
Simple day-to-day actions can go a long way to motivate your co-workers. For instance, (i) offer your help, (ii) tell someone you know how hard they’ve been working on a particular task and that you appreciate it; (iii) say thank you more often; (iv) drop a few “enjoy your day” messages periodically; (v) pass along the “credit plate”; if your boss recognizes you, make sure to give credit to those around you.
We are by nature social animals and our place of work is by nature a social construct. Invest time getting to know your colleagues more deeply. Invite them to lunch, remember their b-day, demonstrate interest in what they say, show solidarity, learn about their likes and dislikes. In fact, one of the 12 items in Gallup’s renowned Q-12 Employee Engagement Survey is “Do I have a best friend at work?” The research shows that employees who respond on the affirmative are more likely to be engaged and to engage others as well.
The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy once said, “Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.” As human beings, we all deserve to be treated with respect, even when our opinions differ. Showing continuous and genuine respect for your co-workers is highly conducive to positive affection, teamwork and trust in the workplace.
Fred Machado is the founder and CEO of ExcelTrek.