Why am I not engaged at work?

If you’re not feeling engaged at work, you’re not alone. That’s from our experience as well as the research which shows that despite all the effort, energy and resources poured into engagement, only a small minority of people feel engaged at work.

Something’s not working…

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It might be you?

Feeling engaged at work isn’t just about the perfect conditions. We’ve worked with lots of great performers and with loads of teams where their playing conditions – the culture, the quality of their environment, their leaders – are not particularly great. And yet they’re really engaged. They’re not sitting round waiting for the perfect conditions to emerge.

So, what’s going on and what might that mean for you?

High Performance Headlines

  • Engagement is about discretionary effort. The more engaged you are, the more likely you are to put in effort that you don’t have to – you want to.
  • For high performers, engagement is linked closely to performance and results. Feeling engaged is useful because it drives persistence, resilience, skill development and motivation.
  • If you’re not feeling engaged, then one of your 3C’s might be missing or lacking; you’re not feeling a sense of control, your confidence isn’t being nourished or you’re not feeling connected to a team or to the purpose of the organisation.
  • You don’t need perfect conditions to be engaged. Your response to those conditions is much more important.
  • A lack of engagement is likely to mean your performance suffers. You can’t put in your best performance if you don’t bring your full self to the game.

The Full Viewpoint

Engagement – what does it actually mean?

You might be more engaged than you think. There’s so much well intentioned yet ill-informed things done in the name of engagement that it’s not really surprising if you’re not feeling it. In the end, engagement is a simple thing – it’s about discretionary effort.

So, if you’re putting in discretionary effort into your work – doing more than just the bare essentials – then you’re probably engaged, even if you don’t score highly on the annual survey that’s full of irrelevant questions.

Still, while you might be a little more engaged than you give yourself credit for, you might not be as into your work as you’d like to be. Here are a few reasons why you might not be feeling it:

  • It might not be you. The questions on the engagement survey are often stupid. If you regularly score low then you could start to believe that you’re not engaged. Scoring high on irrelevant questions, “Have you got a best friend at work?” doesn’t mean you’re engaged in a way that’s meaningful. Similarly, scoring low on stupid questions might mean you believe that it’s you when it’s not.
  • It might be you. Your playing conditions are a bit rubbish, the office or work environment is awful, you have a crap boss, decisions that affect you are not explained, company values are not lived, blah, blah, blah. You can either spend your time and energy moaning about these and in many cases, all that will do is make you feel worse. So, find some things you do love about your work (helping customers, providing for your family, giving you some purpose every day) and focus your attention there.
  • It might not be you. Your leaders and the culture they’ve created might be inconsistent, lacking in basic humanity and decency and the only thing that seems to matter seems to be who you know. If that’s the case, it’s hardly surprising you don’t feel engaged. So either change it as much as you can, suck it up or get the hell out of Dodge.
  • It might be you. If your playing conditions don’t suit you and you can’t or won’t find things about work that do fire you up a bit, then you’re unlikely to ever feel engaged. If you can’t find either another organisation to work in or another part of your current organisation that will feed your soul a little more, then your reality is that you’re not going to feel engaged. Sorry.

So what?

The chances are you want to feel more engaged than you do right now. If you didn’t, then it’s unlikely that you’d give a shit about how engaged you are and you probably wouldn’t be reading this in the first place.

The good news is that there is stuff you can do to feel more engaged, whatever your conditions. The tool and guide in this kitbag will show you how.