If the statistics are true, and I highly doubt that Gallop is wrong, we’ve got a problem on our hands. A big one.
If you were to honestly ask yourself right now, “am I engaged in my work”, what would the answer be?
According to Gallop, for every 5 people that read this post, 3 of you will be disengaged.
Perhaps it is not fair of me to ask such a loaded question like “Are you engaged in your work” without telling you what engagement means. Does engagement mean you show up on time and do your work? Or approaching all tasks and jobs with ENTHUSIASM and a SMILE?
Research defines engagement as the connection an individual has to their work and the way in which they express themselves physically, emotionally and cognitively while in their role. One of the original engagement researchers, William Kahn, used the word “harnessing” to describe engagement, as in harnessing oneself to their work.
Another way to understand engagement is to observe it from the opposite perspective – What is disengagement?
To be disengaged is to be withdrawn and defensive, and to exhibit behaviours that preserve the self and promote a lack of connection (to both your work and your relationships). It also means to remove or withdraw your personal, emotional and cognitive energy. From a work perspective, this means removing yourself or “uncoupling” from your work and suppressing your true self.
In looking at the definition of engagement, two things stand out:
- Engagement is a desirable thing, and,
- Engagement is made up of both attitudinal and behavioural components that are desirable to both the individual and the organization
Answering the questions of “Am I engaged in my work” is not as simple as yes vs. no. In light of the definitions presented above, it might be easy to fall on one side of the definition versus another, and yet, I suspect that many answers might start with “it depends” or “sometimes…”
Engagement research has exploded as scholars try to define what engagement means and how it is related to other work factors such as culture, job satisfaction, turnover and organizational commitment.
I challenge that to truly understand engagement, we must start by looking at ourselves and our experiences. Engagement may appear to be one size fits all, however, to categorize it in this way would be short sighted.
Let me ask another, more powerful and meaningful question:
What does engagement mean to you?
To gain insight into that question, try the following thought exercise:
Think back to a time, any time, that you felt connected and your true self. This time could be a work, with friends or family, or even alone. Bring to mind this experience, and remember what it felt like to be in that experience.
What were you doing? What did it feel like? What was the environment like?
What stands out for you as being the most memorable about this experience?
What thoughts, beliefs, attitudes did you have at the time?
I urge you to write down it down. Take what you have written and look at it. It may not be the complete picture, but it’s a start. The start of knowing yourself better and knowing what it means for YOU to be engaged.
Furthermore, who wouldn’t want more the THAT in their lives?
 Kahn, W. A. (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of management journal, 33, 692-724.
 Macey, W. H., & Schneider, B. (2008). The meaning of employee engagement. Industrial and organizational Psychology, 1, 3-30.