Workplace engagement from the inside out

One of the greatest life lessons I have ever come across for staying healthy is to look at life situations that you are not happy about in the following manner:

  1. Is there something within my control that I can do about this?
  2. If there is nothing I can do about it, I accept what is without resistance.
  3. I look at this difficult situation to learn what it can teach me.

Although we have much choice in several aspects of our life (we can choose our primary partner, our friends, and where we live) our work is the one part of life where there are many things we have no control over.

After all, we cannot control our manager’s leadership skills, our company’s corporate culture, or the venomous colleague who gossips all day long.

We have to make many compromises for the security that comes with employment, although the latest Gallup survey reflects that most of us are not “engaged” at work.

Gallup defines employees as “engaged” if they are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their organization, and if they are contributing positively to their company’s bottom line.

Disengagement is a major issue in the workplace that is truly a “lose-lose” situation for both employers and employees. Just in the U.S. alone, disengagement is costing employers over $500 billion every year while it greatly impacts the livelihood and well-being of employees.

If you are starting to feel the insidious nature of disengagement creeping up on you from any circumstances that are less than ideal at work, here are a few steps you can take to prevent your American dream from becoming your next nightmare:

  1. Put the situation in perspective by looking from the 30,000 foot view. Regardless of what it is that is challenging about the situation, don’t forget that everything is simply a temporary perspective. Ask yourself: “Will this matter in one hour, one month, one year from now?”
  2. See the situation as a great opportunity to practice mastery. You can practice patience, ways to change a difficult situation into an effective conversation, your negotiation skills, or simply setting boundaries without coming across as too demanding or critical. Practice makes perfect and despite popular belief, unlike a golden friend or a lifetime partner, if the shoe does not fit at work, you can step into a new pair. Statistically speaking, we will change employers ten to fifteen times during our career and we will spend less than five years at each place of employment. If you are doing your best and you are not getting the appreciation you deserve, is it worth you losing sleep over?
  3. Look at the situation as an opportunity to learn something new about yourself. (Why am I so bothered that my manager gave me a “meets expectations” rating when I feel I am exceeding?) Regardless of our IQ or even our stellar Ivy League education (if we had access to that) most of our reactions and behaviors stem from our emotions which are driven by implicit memories stored in our unconscious. Anything that is causing us to feel a strong emotion is nothing other than a wake-up call about yet another piece of data that can bring us closer to our true, untainted, and truly authentic self. So next time your boss is being an ass to you, don’t be mad at them—thank them instead!
  4. Choose the attitude of looking every day for a new way that is within your control to make an adjustment that will impact the outcome of the situation. Power, by its’ dictionary definition, is simply our ability to do something effectively. If your request for a later meeting time when you are the only one flying to the East Coast from California has been ignored, you can write a memo on work/ life balance stating your time of arrival, or you can take your manager aside and explain the impact of red-eye flights on your productivity. When we redirect our focus from complaining to all the things within our control that we can do, it is amazing how much energy we free up and how many solutions we may come up with!
  5. Make someone’s day. Whether we are on the C-Suite or the entry level of our organization, at the end of the day, we are all the same species, with similar needs for connection and belonging. Spreading goodwill by sharing genuine acts of kindness at work enhances not only the recipients’ outlook and attitude, but also ours. Research from Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism, shows that people with a strong network of support seem to be more resilient than their fellow human beings even after major disasters.

Although emotional intelligence may not be able to offset a toxic corporate culture, we can impact our engagement at work from within in numerous ways to better manage things outside of our control that are draining our energy and resources.

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