If you’re not, you want to be.
Social psychologists have published enough research in the last 10 years to convince us that loving what we do, who we do it with and why we do it are key to our overall well-being and longevity. Business analysts and market research firms have gathered extensive data on the impact engaged employees have on an organization’s bottom line. Experts go so far as to say that engaged employees are the onlycompetitive advantage a company has.
If “engaged employee” reads like an oxymoron to you, it may be time to evaluate (or re-evaluate) your relationship with your employer. Ask yourself: Am I confused about the purpose of my work and whether I can add value? Do I believe I’m a victim? Am I feeling stuck? Do I often catch myself complaining or venting to…anyone around? Am I often in conflict with others?
Out-of-love employees and their companies create what Roberta Lee, M.D., calls “superstress” – a condition that manifests as job dissatisfaction, burnout, noise pollution, loss of meaningful work and lack of valuable connection with others. We know from our own experience that workplace superstress permeates our physical, mental and emotional beings. Chronic conflict with our boss, co-workers or customers produces these unhealthy behaviors that we allow to perpetuate. We make excuses. We miss work. We make mistakes. We have more accidents. Our organization’s productivity and profitability suffer and turnover begins to occur – a vicious cycle. Exhaustion, scarcity of time and fear keep us from doing anything about it. Our brain sounds the alarm, orchestrating stress responses. If this alarm is set off too often, it can do serious physical damage: disturbed sleep, moodiness, memory loss, brain fog, anxiety – even depression.
All too often, we don’t break this pattern of superstress. Life does it for us. Something happens – something significant. A close call with death. The birth of a child. A loss of someone close to us. A wonderful surprise. An accident. A wake-up call that so much more is possible creates space to think differently – and some of us begin to. We examine this question of whether we are in love with our company, or simply biding our time.
When we love our work, and it loves us back, discretionary effort – that human superpower – is abundant. We will go far and beyond what is required and tap into that vast channel of energy to achieve amazing, seemingly impossible goals. This is employee engagement. Organizations know when it’s happening because it’s visible – we show up! We create a respectful and trust-filled environment for those around us. We look out for one another and help each other achieve shared goals. We smile, laugh and reach out to our colleagues and clients and offer whatever assistance they might need in the moment. We naturally and enthusiastically celebrate one another’s wins! We are in it.
Meet Gayle. She works for the same company she began with right out of grad school. She wasn’t the top recruit or the highest potential, but she’s in love with her company, and they are in love with Gayle. She rides her bike to work and joins her team for coffee three days a week. She manages a team of five who spend most of their days dealing with unhappy customers. She and her team have made it their mission to become number one in customer satisfaction across all of the regions. Why? Because why not? They can! Gayle’s focus is on leading her team to find innovative solutions to customer problems, to go beyond what they expect and to follow up without being asked. Her passion for what she does has led her to take a few risks and challenge upper management regarding certain policies. Instead of being shut down for bringing forward out-of-the-box thinking and proactive solutions, Gayle’s company has promoted her twice in one year to demonstrate to others that her behavior is what the company values.
What companies do to drive engagement with their employees is similar to what happens in any good relationship. Leaders come together to create an environment that appreciates, supports, delights in and honors meaningful work. Diversity is embraced and nourished in all its forms. People are encouraged to find shared purpose in their lives.
And, just as in any relationship, we should expect some ups and downs. Healthy conflict and seasons of difficult communication are to be expected. Some days just being better than others. But you owe it to yourself to assess your current role and your organization. Address the barriers to loving your company. Work on the relationships at play and be open to learning about yourself and others in the process. If it’s simply not meant to be, courageously make a change. You deserve to love how you earn a living.