When Your Heart’s Not In It

When Your Heart’s Not In It

September 25, 2014

Recently, in the hall of a medical building, I passed two men: one in scrubs and one in a suit. The man in scrubs said, “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, since you’re my manager, but I’m just not motivated anymore.”  I sure hope that my doctor feels motivated! And it really gave me pause to think that she might not be.

In talking about what I’d heard with others, people expressed shock – not because the guy in scrubs was unmotivated, but because he’d actually told his supervisor about it. Being candid enough to admit, “I’m just not that into this…” is a risky proposition and – in many workplaces – will not end well. Why? Because no employer really wants employees who are disconnected or disengaged. Disengaged employees do not contribute at the maximum, sometimes spread dissatisfaction, and have higher rates of absenteeism.

So what’s an employee to do when the daily routine becomes the daily grind? Can you turn things around, if your heart’s not in it?

An employee can take responsibility for their own engagement. No workplace is perfect, but, as Timothy Clark wrote in his TLNT.com article, The Five Ways that Highly Engaged Employees are Different

“While most highly engaged employees embrace an employee-centered model of engagement (meaning “I own it; it’s up to me; I’m responsible for my own engagement”), most disengaged employees follow an employer-centered model (meaning “It’s my manager’s or the organization’s job to keep me engaged”). In sharp contrast, the highly engaged don’t wait around for the organization to engage them. They take deliberate steps to engage themselves.”

It would be great if employers always knew how to individually engage the workforce, but employees have to – at the very least – meet them in the middle.

In her article Four Steps to Improve Your Engagement, Mary Ann Masarech of Blessing White, writes, “No one can make you more engaged. Your engagement, ultimately, is a personal equation. It reflects your relationship with work, based on your values, your talents, and your aspirations.”

So while we can advocate for better workplaces where employees have the tools, information, and community they need to succeed, it is incumbent on employees to do their part. How? Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask for more responsibility. Employees who quietly and efficiently get the job done may not automatically be noticed for more opportunities. Once you’ve got the skills, ask for the chance to try more or to take something off of your supervisor’s plate.
  • Make the dysfunctional more functional. Instead of complaining about the way things are, think strategically about how to do things better. Make a well-considered recommendation about how to solve a problem or to be more efficient, instead of just waiting for someone else to fix things.
  • Check your attitude. Turns out a good attitude is contagious. And so is a bad one… As we have previously reported in our blog article Does It Matter If You’re Happy, researcher Will Felps found that “In dozens of trials, over and over, when he (an actor) acted like a bad apple with a group, that group would perform 30% to 40% worse than groups without a bad apple.” If you want to work in a good environment, don’t be the bad apple.
  • Know your business. As Masarech explains, “You can’t exceed expectations or achieve extraordinary accomplishments if you don’t know what the organization needs from you (and why).” Opportunities are more likely to come to you, if you understand what makes the business go.

Sometimes, a job just isn’t a good fit and it’s time to move along. But often – by considering your own contribution and pursuing opportunities to improve your environment – you can turn things around.