Engagement continues to be more and more difficult in a growing world with more distractions, here are a few ways to increase yours.
On a recent trip, I took a cab ride where the driver complained loudly about unmotivated and overpaid government workers in his city. Then he went on to share that both of his daughters work for the government. He explained how they complain to him about wanting to do some good and pursue their careers in government, but how hard that can be sometimes. “So,” says my driver, “I tell them not to worry about it. I tell them that they should just sit back, collect a paycheck, keep their eyes on their pension, and not rock the boat.”
His advice to his daughters seemed tragic to me. He was advising them to accept the “golden handcuffs” and perform in exactly the same way that he was just complaining about. However, I would guess that he doesn’t want his daughters to work jobs that numb their hopes, disengage their minds, and dull their energy so that they can collect a good pension for a few short years at the end of it all. I wonder if he would give different advice if he were to step back for a moment to consider his hopes and dreams for his daughters.
I realize that bureaucracy has the capacity to frustrate people, but I don’t believe anyone should have to succumb to a mediocre work environment. As far as I know, my cab driver’s daughters only have one life to live, and the only time they have for sure is the time they are living right now. None of us can predict how long we’ll be around, so putting up with years of deadening work for our golden years just doesn’t seem like a good bet. Instead, we should put effort in to finding meaning in the work we already have.
Satisfaction and happiness with your work matters now. Assuming that you want to be engaged and satisfied with your work, you cannot just focus on your retirement paycheck and the size of your bonus. You should rather look for the intrinsic rewards in what you are doing now.
Satisfied and engaged employees, who are motivated by the intrinsic rewards of their work inevitably improve a workplace’s culture. However, this is not something that comes easily. Through my own experience, I know that culture change is hard work – it takes intention, planning, and sustained effort. But if the result is more personal engagement and satisfaction, it is worth it.
Finding intrinsic rewards in your work is the first step towards improving your workplace’s culture. If you think you’re up for the challenge, try these four things:
ONE: Focus on identifying your personal sense of purpose. When you’ve done this, find ways to connect your sense of purpose to the organization’s. Remember that most organizations have a purpose that, in some way, seeks to make the world a bit better, whether its through their products or services. If you are stuck, ask yourself how your work matters and who it matters to, either internally or externally. If it’s difficult to answer these questions, ask your colleagues and leaders for help – your questions may initiate a helpful conversation.
TWO: Look for ways to harness your natural abilities. Even if the tasks you are naturally good at fall outside of your core duties, look for opportunities to play to your strengths. Volunteer for projects that you know you’d be good at, or instead of asking for a promotion, ask for tasks that are suited to your talents and what brings you satisfaction. When you do this, you are more likely to excel and feel good about your work.
THREE: Talk with your leaders about meaning. Discuss ways you and your team can contribute to something meaningful. This can be done through your work projects, or you can contribute to community events and charitable work. Both the conversation and the shared meaningful work will increase your connection with your colleagues and contribute to your sense of wellbeing.
FOUR: Find cultural influencers within your team. Cultural influencers are those people who can answer the questions about how things work around here. Talk with them about the workplace culture you’ve observed, and ask them to become allies in your efforts to improve it. In the process, you may begin to plant the seeds of culture change.
When someone complains to us about their own lack of motivation, or about others who don’t seem motivated, we don’t have to sit back and listen as I did. Instead, we can empathize with the challenge of a difficult work environment, and then suggest that there may be options for people to empower themselves and begin shifting their work culture – the four options I outlined above are a good place to start.
Eric Stutzman is the Managing Director of ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership & Workplace Performance, a leading provider of professional development training. He is co-author of the book, The Culture Question (CLICK HERE to get your copy) and is the author of many ACHIEVE workshops including Management and Supervision, Coaching Strategies for Leaders, and Dealing with Difficult People. Eric believes that the best leaders and employees first turn their minds to listening with curiosity.
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