As I wrote recently, research was released by the Gallup organization that found only 3 out of 10 U.S. employees are actively engaged in their work from a mental, emotional and volitional (a choice of the will) point of view. Conversely, 52% of employees were found to be not engaged and 18% are actively disengaged. This latter group is a dangerous one — they are actually actively working at cross-purposes with their employer, doing things to make things worse in their workplace.
Much of the blame for this sad state in our work environments is being placed fully and solely on the shoulders of supervisors, managers and employers. A position with which I heartily disagree. Yes, there are managers and employers who only think about the “bottom line” (often, their personal financial benefit). And yes there are supervisors who are jerks that primarily criticize and “cut down” their staff, and take credit for the positive actions of their team members. Unfortunately, Gallup’s own article about the research emphasizes actions focused exclusively on manager selection, training and behavior. Not once is there any mention about the employees and what they may be bringing to the situation.
But I believe, culturally, that we are also in the midst of a serious “perspective crisis”.
If you listen very long to the public discourse — whether it is via the headlines of the news media, conversations in the office or sports fields, or when the “person on the street” is being interviewed — the main message you hear is some form of complaint. “I have to commute an hour each way to work, every day.” “I only get two weeks paid vacation until I have worked at this job for a year.” “I get so tired of having to deal with customers and their stupid complaints.” Fill in the blanks, you’ve heard hundreds of complaints, as well.
Ok. Reality check. Over 3 billion people in the world every day: 1. Do not have access to clean safe water. 2. Do not have enough food for the day to go to bed not hungry. 3. Live on $10 or less every day.
3 billion. Let’s put it in real numbers. Take one of your large football stadiums (the Big House at Univ. of Michigan, UT-Austin, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena) that holds 100,000 people. 3 billion equals 30,000 of those stadiums filled with 100,000 people. And think about every day all of those people not having adequate food, water or money. They are not worried about whether their air conditioner works (they don’t have one — they don’t even have running water). They are not upset that they are stuck in rush hour traffic (they don’t own a car). They are not worried about what the menu for the 4th of July picnic is going to be (they are scavenging for food in the trash).
Conversely, we have: running water, safe water, hot water, a refrigerator, all the food we need and want, air conditioning, consistent electricity, safety from being bombed daily, a job where we can earn at least $50/day.
I believe that a major antidote for low employee engagement is an attitude of appreciation for our jobs. Regardless of what you do, how hard your work is, or what an ogre your boss is, the opportunity to work in a job is something for which to be thankful:
- Work provides an opportunity to support yourself and your family.
- Work allows you to contribute to your community and society (and potentially the world) by providing goods and services to others.
- When you work, you are able to learn information and develop skills and/or character qualities you did not previously have.
- Work gives you experiences that can help you move forward in your career.
Yes, work takes time, energy, and effort. And work is usually difficult. It can be rewarding and enjoyable, but this is the exception rather than the rule. We encounter challenges, problems, and difficult people at work.
But, I deeply request: Bring an attitude of appreciation and gratitude to your workplace. We are blessed almost beyond measure, and far more than millions and millions of others in the world today. I guarantee you, when you do, your sense of engagement in your work will grow. Don’t wait for someone else to make your work important to you.