In a 2013 Gallup study, researches found that an alarming 52% of American workers are disengaged from their work, meaning that they are unhappy, but not drastically so---They are at work, but really, it's as if they are someplace else. Sound familiar?
Only about 30% of Americans are actually happy at work. And 18% hate their jobs. Gallup recommends familiar quips that leaders can employ to combat worker disengagement: Improve communication, articulate your expectations, offer praise, give employees the tools they need to succeed. I'm guessing these "solutions" are something you've heard before.
My theory? Disengagement at work is largely related to a feeling of disconnectedness. This problem rests squarely on the shoulders of management, those who would call themselves "leaders." There is a leadership deficit in this country these days, and it is largely due to the pervasive notion that we can't be our true selves at work. The idea that we can't ask personal questions and get to know people beyond the superficial. My advice: Take off your mask. Be your true self and connect with your employees. Ask good questions when you first meet them. Then, keep on knowing them.
I learned a very effective trick when I was in the FBI. How to get people to open up to you and tell you how it really is. We called it “Give to get.” If you want someone to open up about themselves, a good way to do it is to offer up a little bit about……Ding Ding Ding---yourself! Now, I’m not talking about your favorite football team or any of that B.S. That’s not going to be enough. Nobody cares about your favorite football team, unless of course, it’s their’s too. I don’t know what that’s going to be for you, everyone is different. We all have vulnerablilites, something we aren’t proud of, or something we wish we were better at. Expose a bit of yourself and you'll marvel at the trust that can be forged by doing so.
So here's my challenge to you, whether you're in a leadership position or not. Get to know people on a deeper level. Find out about where they're from, what their childhood was like, etc. What does happiness mean to them? What about fulfillment? How can you help them be more fulfilled? Start asking better, deeper questions, and the world will open up to you.