Disengagement And The “Love What You Do” Myth

5 Dynamics of Increased Engagement

Diseangaged Employees

I am not sure how many times I have heard the saying, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” (Marc Anthony) If you are like me, you have heard this or something like it a bunch. When I heard this, I felt inspired to search for what I love, because after all, I don’t like to work! My life experience, and the experience of some very successful people I know, has taught me this philosophy is costing business, relationships and families dearly.

Have you ever had an employee that you were so excited to hire and it didn’t turn out well? Have you been the employee and starting a job with so much hope and enthusiasm only to find out it was not what you thought or expected? Have you experienced team members who became disengaged, frustrated, or angry and left?

Have you ever been in a relationship that started of with great promise? You found your soul mate, only to realize that initial feeling was not sustainable? When this happens, many leave their current partner and go off in search of the ideal they thought they found the last time. This cycle can be repeated again and again searching for the perfect ideal.

What is going on here? According to Gallup, 70% of employees are disengaged. Disengagement caused by unrealized expectations is the problem. Well-meaning parents and other mentors in our life want to inspire and encourage us. They tell us how great we are. They tell us we deserve the best things and the best people in our life. They tell us to follow our passion. They tell us we will be most successful when follow our passion. You want to believe this. I want to believe this! Who wouldn’t want to believe this?!

It is important to follow our passions and interests. It certainly makes life better. However, take caution about “never working a day in your life.” A quote by the singer Toni Braxton adds balance to the Marc Anthony quote: “To do what you love can sometimes be stressful.” We need to be prepared to handle the adversity and challenges of life that will surely come. What happens when things don’t work out like you planned? How do you react when things don’t go your way? I know that this has happened in my life and in the lives of almost everyone I know. We have had jobs and careers were we were following our passion and doing what we loved. However, even in these circumstances, we all had to do things we were not excited about, that felt like work.

Many of the youth today and our current workforce are not equipped to handle the challenging environments of business. They have not learned how to work. They are not prepared to handle the disappointments of relationships. Many give up when things don’t go the way they had expected. They may quit a job or relationship. Or worse, they stay and are miserable. It is how we behave in these challenging times which defines individuals as leaders, and as dedicated spouses and significant others. Many who are not equipped to handle disappointment show up in a way that is detrimental to the business or to the relationship.

The point here is not that we can’t pursue our ideal and passions; it is that we learn how to manage our disappointments, challenges and setbacks. There are definitely valid reasons to leave personal or work relationships. There are also many relationships that can be saved, improved, and become deeply fulfilling when we fight through the storms.

Five dynamics of increased engagement.

  1. Create a great culture:

    When ranking job satisfaction., 72% of respondents indicated that respectful treatment of employees at all levels was “very important”. This was the top contributor to overall employee satisfaction. This ranked higher than pay and benefits. Hiring and HR professionals must ensure their workplace culture and employee engagement strategies are of equal importance to compensation, benefits and other responsibilities. Here is an additional reason to develop a great culture!

  2. Be honest: 

    64% of employees rated trusting their senior management as the second most important contributor to job satisfaction. (SHRM, Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Study, 2015) Be open about the way it really is at your company. Don’t paint the picture that everything is perfect. Let candidates know there are challenges. The pay received is based on work, which requires effort. Being honest will help develop trust with leadership and narrow the gap between expectation and reality, which are necessary ingredients of employee engagement.

  3. Hire for behavior, train for skill:

    Find the people who are willing to be flexible and fight through adversity. Use effective tools, these will help remove the frustration of hiring by helping you, better match people to jobs. There are effective tools to create accurate job models based on your best performers and input from management. With the correct application of these tools, you will more effectively attract the best candidates. These tools will also help hiring managers ask the right questions to find the best possible person for the job. When you effectively match people to positions, you will strengthen the culture, increase employee engagement, increase productivity and reduce turnover and waste.

  4. Provide the right praise:  

    Many of the younger generation, coming in to the work place, do not know how to respond well to adversity and criticism. Many are part of a generation, which have been praised by well-meaning parents who told them how smart and talented they are. Sporting programs meaning to boost self-esteem may also be contributing to the problem by providing awards for kids who just show up. The result is well stated by the psychologist, Carol Dweck, “many can’t function without getting a sticker for their every move.” (Mindset, Carol Dweck, 2006) Employers are perpetuating the problem through recognition programs to support these employees who need constant reassurance and can’t take criticism. The alternative is to praise for taking initiative, for commitment, for overcoming a setback, for learning something new.

  5. Develop your people:

    Organizations that dedicate a portion of their budget to professional development send a message that they invest in their employees. Additional benefits of professional development include personal development and greater opportunities for career advancement. Although employees continue to place value on professional development opportunities, fewer organizations are investing in these types of benefits. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2014. Workplace Visions: Trends in Workplace Professional Development. Issue 3)
 As more and more of the experienced workforce retire, developing employees becomes more necessary. Employees are more likely to be engaged when they feel their employers are invested in helping them develop their careers.

Implementing these suggestions takes commitment. The payoff will be worth the investment!

How to Defeat the ‘Fog of War’ in Business

5 Steps To Overcome The Challenges And Setbacks We Experience in Business

There is a phenomenon in battle called the “fog of war’. What it means is when individuals who are fighting in a war perceive they are losing. They may act according to the perception and retreat when in fact the unit or army they are part of is winning the war. The fog of war creates a challenge for generals and their armies. If individuals and individual units feel they are losing from their perspective, they may give up which prolongs the victory. The same phenomenon can happen in business.

In our daily fight to be successful in our roles, we will have defeats. Perhaps we have a disagreement with a co-worker or supervisor. Perhaps we lose out on a sale we were expecting to win. Perhaps a client has a poor experience with our service or product, etc. Sometimes these events can cause us to think and feel our isolated experience is a sign of enterprise wide problems. This can cause discouragement and discontent with some members of our team and can spread to others.

I have fought feelings of discouragement many times. I have experienced personal losses in a business sense and was tempted to think, we must be ‘losing the war’ as a company and maybe I should give up or move on. I also know from experience, we get what we focus on. We will find evidence of our predominant thoughts. When I focused on challenges and failings, I would feel discouraged and questioned whether we could achieve our goals. Conversely, as I began to focus my thoughts and energy around the successful outcomes I desired, my results inevitably changed and my perception of where we were as a company changed. That perception increased my confidence and satisfaction with my company.

The ‘fog of war’ in my experience seemed to happen when our business was in what Bruce Tuckman called the storming phase of team development.  Tuckman proposed his model of team development called forming, storming, norming and performing in 1965. Forming is where we set goals. This can happen at when a company is new or when changes occur. It can happen when we lose or add new people. Storming is where we feel comfortable enough with each other to express discontent and challenge each other. It can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. Norming is where we start to give up our own personal crusades and agree with others to make the team function. This phase is not about avoiding conflict, it is about coming together. The final phase, performing, is where the team is achieving goals and things are running smoothly. A company can be in one of the four phases as whole and individual teams may be in different phases. Individuals on teams can be in different phases as well.

It is easy for employees who are in the storming phase to experience the ‘fog of war’ phenomenon. If a team or company stays in the storming phase for a prolonged period, they have a greater chance of not emerging leading to business failure. If you are a leader of a company or team in the storming phase, have hope. Most companies go through similar phases. The following suggestions can help shorten the storming phase and remind team members that even though they may experience setbacks from time to time, they will ultimately succeed.

  1. Challenges Are Temporary:

    Let your team members know that the challenges of this phase are temporary. Educate your team that all companies go through similar phases. Just naming this phase of team development will help give the team hope things will get better keeping the, positively engaged.

  2. Focus On Outcomes:

    Keep your team focused on positive outcomes desired. It is easy to get fixated on failures. Remember, we tend to manifest the results of our predominant thoughts. Keeping the team focused on positive outcomes will help dissipate negative energy.

  3. Be A Role Model:

    Make sure you as the leader and your team leaders model the attitude that the team will emerge victorious. Team members must be able to look to the leadership for how to act in times of challenge and difficulty. A negative team leader will multiply the ‘fog of war’ dynamics if not addressed by discipline or replacement.

  4. Demonstrate Confidence:

    Show your team you have faith in them. Team members can lose hope and exhibit behaviors that hurt the team. Let them know they are a valued member of the team. Help them understand the impact of their performance and behavior on the success of the team.

  5. Celebrate Success:

    Encourage the team by sharing any team successes no matter how small. Celebrating successes will lift morale and give hope the team and organization is moving in the right direction.