Are you struggling with motivation at work? In over two decades of managing my own career and leading workplace teams, I’ve found that constant engagement is critical to thriving at work and building a lasting career. Millions in the workplace are wasting away at a dead end cul-de-sac on their career path journey because they are not motivated in their job.
According to Gallup, less than 3 in 10 American workers are engaged (i.e. emotionally and personally connected to the goals and objectives of the organization). Here’s the visual.About 70% of the cars you see in every employee parking lot don’t want to be there. (Globally, 87% don’t want to be there.)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics cite that 2.5 million people, on average, quit their jobs EVERY MONTH. Having run my own business and managed multiple corporate teams through the years, I can assure you nothing keeps a small business owners or a corporate executive up at night more than constant employee attrition. Staff turnover is crippling to operational efficiency, product or service consistency, worker satisfaction, and customer experience. Unattended, these things can easily sink a business over time.
Most articles approach this subject from the perspective of what the employer can fix. (And there are many issues in the workplace that are in management’s direct control.) However, those are things you have little to no control over. So, I want to address what you can control as it relates to navigating and managing your career. It starts by addressing what’s going on inside of you. I’ve observed 4 common traits that lead to strangled motivation at work: a lack of awareness around the career decisions you’re making; impatience; frustration; and entitlement. Let’s first look at the career decisions you’re making.
There are times when leaving an organization is the right answer. However, I can assure you that it’s not the 70-87% of the timearound the globe that people mentally or physically disengage from their workplace. Don’t be so sure that the issue is predominantly your employer. A part of the problem may also lie in the career decisions you are making.Here are a few questions to help you check how aware you are of the career decision you’re making:
- What were the reasons you took the job in the first place?
- What’s changed from then to now?
Think about how you just answered those questions. Now consider the interview that led to that specific hire. What questions could you have asked during the interview process to uncover what you know now? Why didn’t you ask them?Often our goal during the hiring process is getting the job versus understanding the firm. Based on his work with 19,700 exit interviews from the Saratoga Institute in California, Leigh Burnham found that 35% of American workers quit in the first 6 months. And, more than 6 of 10 turnovers were a result of some post hire surprise.
So if you want to avoid the inevitability of facing disengagement in the workplace, do your homework before you make a career decision. Be prepared for the hiring process. And remember, that an interview is a discussion. You should ask just as many, if not more, questions than the hiring manager. A job is a relationship. Make sure you clearly understand who and what you’re saying “I do” to.
The second reason I see people struggle with disengagement is impatience. The biggest casualty of impatience in the workplace is taking your current job for granted. When this happens, the wheels of advancement completely fall apart.
This is also a direct result of what we missed during the interview process; or a lack of proactive communication with leadership. Here are a few more questions during the hiring process that we should, or should have, asked to help level set our expectations regarding career progression:
- What does career progression in this organization look like? And, what are the various career paths I can take within this company?
- Can you give me a real example of someone who started where I will start, that has or is progressing within the organization? Can I speak with them as well?
- What is the most realistic time frame for the type of career goals I’m looking for within the organization?
In over a decade of interviewing, I’ve never had one of these questions asked of me. Not once. Yet, in that same period of time I’ve had countless exit interview discussions in which the employee cited lack of progression as the reason they were leaving the organization. Whether you are a new hire, or a long term employee, knowing the answers to these questions will help create realistic expectations about what should be occurring next for you. And, most importantly, the time frame and behaviors it will take.
The third most common reason I’ve observed that leads to disengagement is frustration. This usually occurs with we are not getting something that we were expecting to receive “when” we think we should receive it. What typically fuels this is the false belief that a workplace is a corporate ladder. It is not. It’s a pyramid. Every career step does not lead to the next level. Like a pyramid, there are often multiple bricks of competency at each level that must be mastered before reaching just one of the bricks at the next level. This means that there are times you’ll have to make lateral or backwards moves to best positions you for progression.
Today, companieshave flatter hierarchiesthan in the past. The top of the house is more closely aligned to the front line. As a result, there are fewer “next level” jobs. And, the waiting line for those are longer. So what can you do? First, look for ways to go up sideways. Next, master the basics of your job in such a way that you stand out. Finally, recognize that moving up is not the only definition of a promotion. Approach your career decisions with the understanding that progression is not about promotion, but about growth. Constantly look for learning opportunities. Deeper skills often deepen opportunities.
The forth trait that stymies engagement in the workplace is entitlement. We all battle this at some point. For those newer to the workplace we tend to feel that because of our degree or background we should move faster or handle more. For those more seasoned we can feel that because we’ve “paid our dues”we’re entitled to more. However, loyalty is no longer solely viewed as time within an organization. A big part of being perceived as loyalty is also having an engaged attitude.
Let’s make this personal. Think about someone you know that is ALWAYS negative or unengaged. These are people we try to avoid.You don’t want to be around them for too long because the suck the air out of the room. It doesn’t matter if you’veknown them for 20 years. Those kind of people don’t make you better, orhappier.The workplace is no different. A manager is not going to want to overly invest in you if you are not actively engaging them or the goals of the organization.
So if you want to stand out in 2016, be engaged. It is so rare in today’s workplace, that a consistent motivation can be a competitive career advantage for you. And, whether new or seasoned, you will be perceived as a valuable asset within the company.