Hey! I’m not trying to pry and if you are great!
I’m trying to examine what makes anyone engaged.
Engagement is about;
To succeed in attracting and keeping someone’s attention and interest.
To become involved with and try to understand.
To be a part that can fit into a process smoothly to enable the whole to work smoothly.
To begin fighting.
I’m sure there are other definitions.
When I was a student of management many years ago, we had a whole semester devoted to ‘statistics’! (Sadly not of the kind that might have engaged me!) I never understood the relevance of the subject and hated going to class. Engagement?
My first employment in the bank took me to share a room with a senior professional, who was given a room because he was that, a ‘senior professional’! I was told that this accommodation was temporary till the contract of the senior expired. Then I was moved with my colleague to a large hall where I sat at a metal desk with a metal chair and found to my dismay that my chair could be easily substituted by someone who had a similar chair particularly if the cane work had deteriorated. Solution – Chain the Chair to Table! (Not kidding) Instead of focus on work I was literally protecting my chair. Engaging? Yeah sure!
At work there were times when there was no work. Why because the Bank said that we were ‘professionals ‘engaged ‘(hired) to do a specific specialised work. So I sat around trying to look busy. Read up on all the ‘awards ‘popularly known as the Green Book and Blue Book, legal journals, went to court, lawyer’s office, what not. Just to stay Engaged!
When the bank finally came around to giving us some work other than our specialization that was an experience by itself. The mail came in bundles. It was opened and each communication dutifully entered into a register. The mail and the register were given to the concerned HOD, who in turn looked at each communication and then ‘released’ it by signing off in the register. This took the best part of the day. Then the HOD passed on that communication to the concerned staff members in the department who would dig out the context and then ‘put up’ a note on the context of the communication. In turn when it came to the HOD there would be another note to the ‘boss’ who would then give instructions in the margin. Often it was merely a ‘put up’ job (which meant that it was for information and the boss initialed it and/or said ‘seen ‘or ‘noted’.)
And what was I doing all the while this rigmarole was going on? Anxiously waiting for the ‘put up job!’ Engaging? You bet it was. I was engaged in looking anxious and busy and appearing eager.
After some years of this, I got disengaged. (Ha Ha) Took my time didn’t I.
So in keeping with the tradition of modern management students I looked for and found a change.
And then another one.
And yet another one.
Everywhere there was some ritual, some approval seeking process, someone to tell you what to do and what not to do. Often I landed up doing tasks that I did not want to. Like checking up complaints of ‘corruption’, acts of ‘sexual harassment’, ‘motivating the employees’ (whatever that means)…..I
As I moved up the hierarchy there were detractors, lots of political manoeuvring, surviving the onslaughts of people who coveted your position or were unhappy with their lack of ‘success. ‘Engaging’? Sure survival always is!
I passed through the phases of ‘engagement surveys’, the phase of ‘best employers’, ‘compensation surveys’ counselled colleagues to stay on despite the fact that I personally felt that they were right in wanting to leave…. Engaged? Sure engaged in chasing conceptual shadows.
So! How do you engage someone?
I recall that during my days with Reliance, when I had visited Jamnagar refinery, there was literally a state of the art set up there. Something I had never seen before and only read about. The most modern of all facilities. Family housing, single accommodation, flights in company aircraft to and from Mumbai to transport employees and family members, excellent library, gyms, auditoriums, regular training and education programs, swimming pool, … Everything that would make employees feel engaged. Yet the vast majority of the young population there made out like they were ‘prisoners’ often waiting for the ‘jail break ‘opportunity!
Other companies do what they think is best and relevant to keep employees engaged some with success with limited success and some with no success.
Is there a solution?
I cast my mind back to my learning days. “Vocation ‘and ’Avocation ‘stand out somewhere in a lot of legal literature.
Vocation – noun
1. A particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
2. A strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.
Avocation – noun
1. Something a person does in addition to a principal occupation, especially for pleasure; hobby.
2. A person’s regular occupation, calling, or vocation.
3. Archaic – diversion or distraction.
Do we pursue a vocation? Or do we do a job?
Do we like what we do? Or do we do it because it pays well, is seen to be socially relevant, prestigious….
Common terminology today is ‘job market’ and those in the market seeking jobs are ‘job seekers’. Do we prepare ourselves for a career, a vocation rather than become ‘job seekers’? No vocation seekers!
And so back to what engages and what is engagement.
Do you really like what you do? Do you enjoy doing it every day? Does it give you a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction by your own measurement? Do you want to do it for a lifetime? Do you feel ‘happy?’
Or – Does it matter to you that others do not think well of what you do or look down upon you? That you feel that you have not put your ‘degree ‘to good use? That you do this because of economic necessity? Do you feel used and ‘unhappy?’
Just remember that most employers pursue their own path of happiness – top and bottom line, shareholders ratings….
Reflect on this dialogue from the Pursuit of Happyness.
Christopher Gardner: “It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?”
Go do something that gives you a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. If you chose to work then do you job with the knowledge that it’s just that a job! That you made life’s choices and are courageous to live up to that decision. Life is about making those compromises and concessions and to live in reality. Otherwise just do what you want to and feel engaged whilst you do it!
As for me I’m into writing, gardening, waste management, counselling, competency assessment, vocational assessment, mentoring and coaching…. Am I engaged and happy? That’s the Crore Rupee Question (Billion Dollar sound better!)