Employees more disengaged than ever! (Manager involvement needed.)

Around Labor Day, the New York Times (Do Happier People Work Harder? By TERESA AMABILE and STEVEN KRAMER*, Sept. 3, 2011) reported that  Americans now feel worse about their jobs — and work environments — than ever before!

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (http://www.gallup.com/poll/wellbeing.aspx) shows that  people of all ages, and across income levels, are unhappy with their supervisors, apathetic about their organizations and detached from what they do. 

What a downer! And just when we thought we were getting the hang of employee engagement! Although there are companies doing a lot of effective things in this area, it seems most employees work for companies that still aren’t getting it right. Blame the economy and lack of budgets and more work spread among fewer employees.  But is it economical to cut back or back burner employees’ emotional life at work? Gallup estimates the cost of America’s disengagement crisis at a staggering $300 billion in lost productivity annually. If your company can’t afford to lose that much, it might be worth it to pay much more attention to the inner work lives of your team members… defined by the researchers as “the usually hidden perceptions, emotions and motivations that people experience as they react to and make sense of events in their workdays.”

The research shows that this inner work life has a profound impact on creativity, productivity, commitment and collegiality. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot or take a lot of time for managers to help their teams stay happily engaged at work.  The key for managers:  be able and willing to facilitate team members’ accomplishments — by removing obstacles, providing help and acknowledging strong effort. Simply making progress in meaningful work emerged as the core element in engagement. I thought that was so interesting! Ahead of traditional incentives like raises and bonuses is the simple human need to feel important and contribute meaningfully.

So, as a manager, where do you stand in terms of offering your team members autonomy, sufficient resources and learning from problems – in order to enable progress?  What guidance and tips can you offer the rest of us? What experiences have helped you learn about engagement?

* Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Steven Kramer, an independent researcher, are the authors of “The Progress Principle.” http://www.progressprinciple.com/.

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About Jaya Koilpillai Bohlmann
Global corporate communication, business, and organization behavior executive; author. My blog, DesigningCommunication, offers inspiration, insight, and tips for all professionals who want to express themselves effectively, and lead with integrity.

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