Start Engaged, Stay Engaged

This post is by Paul Marciano, author of “Carrots and Stick Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT.” When it comes to employee engagement, employees and employers are on the same page. Both wanted inspired employees who willingly apply their talents and efforts to the work at hand. Ready, set, go. We start new jobs in a state of readiness to engage – looking forward to using our skills to contribute to the organization and, subsequently, being appropriately acknowledged and compensated for our efforts and results. I have to believe that people would rather be productive and make a difference than sit around all day trying to figure out how little work they can do and still collect a paycheck. How does eager turn into beleaguered? So, given that we start new jobs with enthusiasm and a positive attitude, why do we so often end up disengaged and disenchanted – and often quickly? Unfortunately, like some marriages, the basis of the relationship may not be on sound footing. What you get during the courtship isn’t what you end up with once you’ve made the leap and signed the deal. Interviewing is dating in the business world. During the interview process, our goal as a job candidate is simple – to be liked and wanted. Thus, I am going to tell you how wonderful I am and all the reasons why you would want me on your team, e.g., my experience, skills, hard work ethic, creativity, initiative, play nicely with others, etc. This mindset of providing a very biased, one-sided representation applies as much to the interviewer representing her company as it does to the job applicant. Just like online dating, people exaggerate their positive characteristics and underplay their less attractive features. When you aren’t given a realistic view of what you’re buying, expectations get set that reality can’t support and you end up disenchanted and disengaged. 7 Tips to Avoiding the Employee Engagement Cliff
  • Do your homework. Don’t join a company that you know up-front has a bad reputation for how they treat their employees. The website gives you the inside scoop based on employee ratings.
  • Keep it real. Presenting yourself in the best possible light during the interview is fine, however, don’t set yourself up for failure. If the job requires a specific skill that you don’t have be straight about your level of proficiency and then emphasize you willingness to learn, otherwise, you will feel overwhelmed which will lead you to become frustrated and disengaged. Furthermore, you risk your supervisor and team members viewing you as incompetent and becoming disengaged with you.
  • Get someone engaged in you. We tend to be engaged when others are engaged with us – especially our supervisor. If your supervisor doesn’t seem interested in coaching and mentoring you, look for someone else in the organization that can fill that role.
  • Develop positive social relationships with your colleagues. You don’t have to like everyone but it is to your benefit to have friends at work. If you come to work feeling as though you are liked and respected, the day goes a lot quicker. Being engaged with your team members is just as important as being engaged in your work. As a proactive measure, meet as many of your potential team members as possible during the interview process to get a sense of whether you might work well together and to get a more honest and accurate appraisal of what it is really like to work for the organization and supervisor.
  • Look for opportunities to learn and develop. One of the most frequently cited reasons that people quit – the ultimate form of disengagement – are that they feel as though they have no room to grow. Most people left unchallenged get bored over time. Let your supervisor and colleagues know that you’re up for new learning opportunities. Take the initiative and don’t wait for someone to come to you.
  • Make sure you’re a good fit for the culture of the organization. For example, is this the kind of place where people come in early and stay late? Is it a warm and friendly environment among team members? Is management interested in employees’ opinions or just their following directions? Does the organization have a core set of values that they really live? If the organizational culture is not aligned with your values, you will become disengaged very quickly.
  • Ask: Do I need this job more than I want this job? Don’t lie to yourself, if you are under financial pressure to accept a job and know going in that it isn’t a good fit, well, you may just have to suck it up. Acknowledge that this isn’t your dream job but be conscious that the more engaged you are, the more likely it is to be successful. Being successful can lead you to other opportunities within – or outside – the organization that may be more attractive. Don’t set yourself up for misery right from the start – do what you can to make it work.
On a final note, once you find that you have gone over the engagement cliff, start looking for other opportunities because climbing back up probably isn’t going to work.
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