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How to defeat disengagement

April 15, 2014
Shannon Bayer

By Shannon Bayer

I was in a meeting the other day.

It was right after lunch—a great time to have a meeting. We were probably 15 minutes into the process. You know where I’m going with this, right? People went around the room giving status updates. Meanwhile, I was thinking about a party I was throwing that weekend, my car needing an oil change, my dad’s upcoming birthday, and about five other things that had nothing to do with what was happening in the room. Sound familiar?

But then a cool thing happened. I became aware of what I was doing and thought to myself, “Oh, this is the definition of being disengaged.” And then I remembered that I was in that room for a number of reasons including the work I do and the position I hold. In fact, the purpose of the meeting was to increase communication between departments. I constantly preach the value of fostering engagement by breaking down silos, avoiding duplicate efforts, and determining proper use of resources. But in that moment, I didn’t care.

Whose fault is that? I work with many companies that want to figure out ways to improve employee engagement. Can we have different reward systems? Should we have different holiday and vacation benefits? Should we hold more meetings to increase communication? But in my moment of clarity, it became obvious that the focus of organizations on employee engagement is essential, but you also need the right people who are willing to realize what they are doing, and change the behavior. This sounds obvious, but the essential issue here is self-awareness. We all know we should be self-aware and track our behavior, its impact on others, and how we show up. But even knowing this piece of information doesn’t mean it will be easy or that we will always do it.

Our jobs are so fast paced, the world is smaller, and we are expected to balance not only the needs of the organization, but the needs of others and ourselves. Self-awareness is critical to developing as a leader as well as a person. So instead of saying to myself, “Oh well, this meeting doesn’t do anything anyway,” I chose to act differently. Becoming aware that I was disengaged made it possible for me to reengage.

I reengaged because I felt a responsibility and accountability to the organization. But I also reengaged because I feel valued by the organization. If I did not feel that essential trust, I might have mentally put my feet up on the table, my hands behind my head, and continued planning a party.

By the way, the pulled pork turned out great.

So let’s hear it. We’ve all been disengaged at work from time to time. What happened when you allowed the feelings to fester? What did you do to pull out of it? Share your insights with us in the comment box below.

Click here to learn more about measuring and cultivating engagement in your organization.

Bayer_ShannonShannon Bayer is the Director of Workshops and a Principal Consultant at Linkage. She specializes in providing facilitation and program design for innovation and change leadership. She also works with organizations to improve team effectiveness, negotiation, and coaching. Follow her on Twitter @ShannonJBayer.

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