I have read quite a bit lately about the very high percentage of people, across the globe, who report being disengaged at work. A recent McKinsey study of millions of employees confirms this finding–most people are not engaged at work.
This does not make sense to me. I experience that Homo lumens is always generating creativity, somewhere. Maybe it is not that people are disengaged at work, rather, as Prof. Ellen Langer suggests, they are “otherwise engaged.” They are engaged, just not with what the leader wants.
What if the experience of being disengaged is living in an external reality that is simply different from your internal reality. While you might be disengaged in the external reality others observe, you are highly engaged within your internal reality. There are plenty of passionate, creative ideas flowing within you all of the time, in your engaged inner reality. The “problem” is that you do not share this creativity in the external reality, for whatever reason that disengages you.
If this possibility makes sense to you, then the question for leaders might not be about how to engage employees, as they are already engaged. People don’t need to be engaged or motivated, they already are. The question then becomes how to release the engagement people already have in their internal reality into their engagement in their external reality.
If people are already and always highly engaged, in their internal reality, then maybe leadership focus should be more on how to stop disengaging people. This shifts the effort from trying to energize automatons to working with the creativity that is already there. It is not surprising to find, as in the Gallup and McKinsey studies, that the companies with disengaged people also have disengaging practices, with underlying agreement structures that promote low relatedness. Our own vibrancy survey confirms this. An antidote would be to work with agreement structures that promote higher relatedness. Higher relatedness with the people that you hired in the first place.