Employee engagement is at its peak when workers respect and ideally like their managers, fit well into the company’s corporate culture, and derive meaning from their work. Sometimes organizational stars align to provide employees with this trifecta of factors, but more often than not, it’s up to the individual to heighten his or her sense of engagement. But how can the average person pull off this magic trick?
- Be the Change: Every employee has a sphere of influence that impacts their happiness and ultimate success. Even junior independent contributors can spark pockets of excellence in lackluster cultures. By maintaining a positive attitude, acting as an example of the culture they’d like to see, and displaying consistent enthusiasm for the work, their team, and the organization, any employee can help reset the bar of performance and inspire radical change.
- Partner with Managers: Of course, the task is made easier if the leadership team supports and encourages such actions, but change doesn’t have to be top down. First line managers have enormous power to shift the cultural winds. Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He was right, but the truth is that managers hold the knife and fork. That’s the secret to culture change. When influential first line managers partner with passionate employees, they can create a groundswell of support for positive change.
When to Quit
Of course, not all positive actions will yield positive results. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, it’s almost impossible to turn a cultural battleship. This reality has not been a cause for concern. For over a decade we’ve been spoiled with a great economy. A comfortable class of working professionals routinely hashtag “best-life” and “living-the-dream” on social media. They quit good jobs to pursue side hustles and passion projects. That’s fine and even brave. It’s always risky to jump ship, but it’s a heck of a lot easier when there are other boats around. Just understand, that the market provided safety net may not always be available.
To be clear, if you have options and are truly miserable at work, you shouldn’t stay in a place that makes you feel less than who you are. At the same time, try not to run from things…it’s always better to move toward something better. When you act out of desperation you make mistakes. Also, there’s something to be said for sticking out a tough situation and experimenting with change. It can arm you with a variety of useful skills including communication, conflict management, creative thinking, and problem solving. That type of productive learning is different than suffering in silence while you pay your dues.
Actions to Take Before You Take Action
In the end, you’ll have to make the ultimate choice – should you stay or should you go? Before selecting your course of action, consider the following:
- What is Missing? Clearly identify the item(s), people or situation(s) that are preventing you from experiencing optimal engagement.
- Does it Matter? Quantify the level of impact the missing item(s) have on you. Be sure to mind your non-negotiables i.e. the things you simply will not tolerate.
- Can You Influence a Change? If it even seems impossible, take on the challenge of fixing the issue within your sphere of influence. Anyone can quit and get a new job. Sparking change not only makes things better for others, but it gives you a career story that worth talking about on an interview, or with a thankful leader and your current company.
In the end, if you must move on be sure to note what you learned and develop smart interview questions to avoid ending in the same situation at the next job.
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