Employee Engagement: When the Employee Just Doesn’t Feel It

Why is it that even in companies with a positive, engaged culture, there’s no guarantee all employees will be fully engaged?

The answer has to do with who’s ultimately responsible for employee engagement – a responsibility shared by employees and their employers.

  • Employers are responsible for creating and maintaining an engaging workplace where employees want to and are enabled do their best work.
  • Employees are equally responsible for their own engagement in that they need to show up on the job ready, willing, and able to do their best work.

So what happens when an employee doesn’t feel engaged in an engaging culture?

Barbara Berger, Career Wellness Partners
Barbara Berger, Career Wellness Partners

That’s what I asked Barbara Berger, hiring manager and certified career coach with Career Wellness Partners. Her mission is to expand the (often neglected) employee side of the employee engagement conversation by challenging individuals to take responsibility for their own motivation and career evolution. She has experience working with people in all stages of their careers: students, early professionals, mid-career job changes, and second acts.

According to Barbara, four primary situational factors contribute to employees no longer feeling engaged:

  • Poor job fit or career choice
  • Feeling they’ve outgrown their position within the company
  • Personal issues or life events, such as health or family crises, divorce, elder care responsibilities, etc.
  • Work is good, company is good, boss is intolerable.

QSM: What do you suggest to employees dealing with one or more of these situations?

Barbara: Speaking generally, regardless of the factor, an employee needs three things to return to engagement (or find engagement in the first place).

  1. Awareness – This means doing the self-assessment work to get to the root cause of the disconnect. This is the inward-facing, honest evaluation that begins to bring clarity to the situation. A hard look at strengths, skills, values, and interests, etc.
  2. Commitment – A commitment to doing whatever it takes to get back on the road to a connection with their career. It’s really a commitment to themselves that they won’t tolerate this level of disengagement and a promise to do their fair share of the work required to get it back on track.
  3. Action – Taking meaningful steps to create opportunities for change. Just thinking and complaining about the situation keeps employees in victim mode and on the sidelines rather than actively finding ways to inspire engagement for themselves.

QSM: In your experience, what else is involved in helping employees re-engage?

Barbara:  Each situational factor that impacts individual engagement brings its own considerations that are unique to the individual and his or her particular circumstances. When working with clients who fall into one of the above categories, there are things to take into consideration like:

  • The stage of career the employee is in
  • The level of commitment by the current company to fostering an atmosphere of engagement
  • The comfort level of having career development discussions with the boss (usually directly proportional to the company’s commitment cited above)
  • And, of course, the employee’s personal financial situation if considering making significant changes based on feeling disengaged.

It is when an employee is feeling disengaged that it can be most beneficial to take part in engagement opportunities the company provides. Even though it takes more energy at these times, I encourage disengaged clients to use everything available to create a spark of interest and create an atmosphere where transformational events can occur.

QSM: To learn more, please check out the Career Wellness Partners blogThank you, Barbara!