In recent weeks we have looked at the role leaders and managers play in increasing employee engagement within an organization. We will now look at our responsibility as individuals who choose to work for a particular company. In my book Humanist Manufacturing: A Humanitarian Approach to Excellence in High-Impact Plant Operations, there are ten humanist commitments, of which one is responsibility. The list of Ten Commitments of Living Humanist Values by the American Humanist Center for Education defines responsibility as, “I will be a good person—even when no one is looking—and own the consequences of my actions.” We will explore what this means regarding our impact on employee engagement within our chosen workplace.
“You have to want to be engaged. There has to be a deep-seated desire in your heart and mind to participate, to be involved, and to make a difference. If the desire isn’t there, no person or book can plant it within you.” – Tim Clark
Suppose we embrace Clark’s recommendation that we need a” deep-seated desire in our heart and mind.” If so, we need to consider what that means for us. I suggest that we must be willing to make the right choices regardless of the outcome and be ready to be accountable when we have made mistakes. While what others believe is right and wrong aligns with various codes of conduct, cultural values, expectations, and social mores, we must clearly understand and adopt the parameters of what is appropriate for our organization. Furthermore, we must be willing to come forward to work through issues that we feel fall in the fuzzy area between clear right and wrong. One where our desire matches our ethical and moral values so that we have peace in our actions to support our employer fully.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that we must stop wasting human potential. In the article, The Gallup State of the American Workforce report found American workforce engagement is at 33%, startlingly low compared to the 70% result for the world’s best companies. Furthermore, in the US, 16% of employees experience active disengagement. These low numbers suggest that employees either need to find a new employer or take action to feel more engaged. An article on the topic recommends:
• Remind yourself why you’re there – Write a personal engagement purpose that defines why you are an employee of the company and why you want to be there.
• Observe, recognize, and appreciate – Look for actions of others that improve your work experience, notice what you find, and then express active appreciation to those co-workers.
• Try an Impact Filter for the mind – When you feel your engagement slipping, do an exercise where you write down what went wrong, options to improve the situation, and the positive outcomes of the issue.
• Set yourself up for a game you can win each day – They share that Stefan Wissenbach’s frequent mantra is “set yourself up for a game you can win each day.” An effort to schedule our day in a manner that does not let us feel subconscious that we are failing.
Ultimately, the key objective is to protect our overall well-being so that we can actively invest the emotional energy to engage in our work throughout the day.
In her TEDx Talk, Alison Ledgerwood shares the impact of using a gain-frame vs. loss-frame perspective. She shares how important it is to fight our fundamental tendency as humans to tilt toward the negative. Her research results are compelling and align with many others on the power of negativity. For example, in research with a peer, they told participants about a new surgical procedure. They described the approach to Group One as being 70% successful, with Group Two hearing that it had a 30% failure rate. The initial response from Group One was to like the procedure, while Group Two had a dislike response. They then told Group One that you could look at the results from a 30% failure rate, and they then shifted to a similar dislike response to that of Group Two. The results align with other research on the positive psychological benefits of focusing on positive events and influences in our lives.
I have a personal propensity to be all in and all out based on my perception of my employer. I began my career in machine repair and rebuild before moving on to engineering. The focus was on finding out what was wrong or could go wrong with a product or a process and then resolving the issue. Unfortunately, that mentality began to seep into my personal life. Thankfully Professor Jackie Stavros entered my life during my doctorate program and introduced me to the power of positivity. Occasionally, I begin to slide over to the negative but, thankfully, monitor this and shift back to focus on that for which I am grateful. Of which there are far more blessings than the few problematic issues.
Employee engagement is a two-way street. Wise leaders will develop a culture that inspires their workforce to maximize their potential. However, we must also embrace our responsibility to perform in a state of total engagement. Anything less is unfair to the balance of the members of an organization.
Individuals with an interest in taking on the responsibility to improve their level of employee engagement can write a statement of Engaged Purpose. The article provides seven questions to guide the writing of a first draft. The questions guide a CEO in writing one for an organization, but they can be easily adapted to guide an individual in developing an engagement statement.
I am grateful to a show host that shared the importance of the dash on a tombstone. On the left is the date of birth and on the right is the day we die. However, the dash represents every other day of our time on Earth. A relatively short gift of life span, so we should embrace it every 24 hours to accomplish something meaningful.
Next week’s blog will continue to explore steps to lessen the waste of human potential as it relates to humanist manufacturing.
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