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Memphis Daily News
Finding Ways to Promote Workplace Engagement
November 3, 2014
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

A Gallup research study of employee engagement released in 2012 found that only 30 percent of employees in the workplace in the United States are actively engaged in the work they do. Which means that 70 percent of the employees are either not engaged, (52 percent), or actively disengaged (18 percent).
We know the engaged when we see them. They are energetic, resourceful, creative, positive, goal-oriented and collaborative, with an appropriate mix of humor and humility. And, we can recognize the actively disengaged by their tell-tale signs of gossip, negativity, chronic complaining, preference for cliques, undermining authority and envy of others success.

The larger group, the just plain disengaged, may be a little harder to spot. They show up, but not much more. They do the minimum, watch the clock, and live for the next reason to be off. It’s relaxed busy-ness with no real commitment to anything. It is always important to know the level of commitment an employee has to the job. What is even more important to an organization is knowing how to promote that engagement.

If engagement is about culture, and culture is about people, then enhancing the engagement of the people in the organization will promote the success of any venture. Engagement is a personal, emotional connection to the work to be done, or to the organization, that influences an employee to exert greater effort, and to bring one’s best self to work, regardless of the circumstances. Being engaged in one’s work is not just a nice idea that is contrived or mandated. Engagement is a way of interacting in the workplace that is necessary for success. Engagement happens when people experience the feeling that what they do matters. Their work, whatever they do, is a valued part of the whole, and their contribution is recognized. Engagement happens when employees become people with names, and interests, and families, and goals.

It’s all about leadership, at all levels. A disengaged workplace loses top talent. If leadership falls into that 70 percent, and is comfortable with disengagement, then the engaged will leave. It might seem like an impossible task for a leader to increase the level of engagement in any organization or institution and become tempted to just cope. However, it is relativity easy if you do just two things.

First, do no harm. Stop doing whatever it is that has a negative impact on the work environment. Choose any one of those examples listed above in the great 70 percent of the disengaged and actively disengaged categories, and don’t do it, don’t tolerate it, don’t allow it to happen. If you’re in that hole, stop digging. You are just making it more difficult to get out.

Second, do something else. There is a saying that if you always do what you always did, then you always get what you always got. So if you, as leader, are always getting employee disengagement, then it’s time to do something else, like replicating the traits of the engaged in yourself, and celebrate them in others.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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