We’re engaged! It depends on who is saying that phrase as to what image comes into your mind, right? If it’s your son, daughter, or friend you see a ring, or a wedding, maybe champagne. Or if you hear the phrase ‘the engagement is off’, then if it’s your friend or child, you probably see tears or a gallon of Rocky Road ice cream. But what if those statements are being made by your employees, co-workers, or your boss? What pictures do those comments bring to mind?

Employee engagement is a huge topic in the workplace right now. I’ve read multiple articles and books on the topic. Our CLP course has a module on it. They all give employers tips on how to get and keep employees engaged. So, imagine my surprise when my boss asked me recently how my engagement was; and when I told him it was ‘ok’, he essentially told me that my engagement being just ‘ok’ could impact my annual appraisal. Wait. My decreased engagement is my fault?

We’d had conversations about my concern that I was feeling somewhat disengaged and just “bleh” about my job. Much of it stemmed around feeling stuck and stagnant in my current role. My requests for what I felt would help came from reading books and articles on engagement. I had even agreed to facilitate a meeting with my team to gather their feedback on their engagement for him and presented him with a one and a half page report on what was impacting our team’s engagement. The response we received to our feedback was that’s work environment, that’s not engagement. But isn’t work environment part of creating a culture that inspires engagement?

Once I got over my initial shock, I had to step back for a minute and ask: whose job is it to be sure employees are engaged?

Ok, 100+ books and 1000+ articles on it can’t be all wrong – the employer should have some responsibility for employee engagement. But maybe you do too. If you aren’t feeling engaged, then maybe it’s time you start asking the hard questions that look at “us” not “them”. First, be sure your engagement expectations are realistic. Then ask why is your engagement diminished, or why do you feel like it is?

  • What are you expecting from your job?
  • What do you want?
  • Does your job give you purpose or is it merely a paycheck?
  • Are you looking for ways to fix it and are you getting support for those efforts?
  • Is your employer actively supporting your goals?
  • Are you suffering from burnout or is it deeper than that?
  • If it’s burnout, what are you doing for your own well-being?  
    • Are you setting boundaries?
    • Are you graciously declining a task that’s not part of your job or not your “jam”?
    • Are you taking a break to clear your mind and pause for a minute?
    • If it is burnout, have you talked to your EAP resources?
  • Have you taken a long, hard look at whether you’re a good fit with your job, your team, or your company anymore?
    • Do you no longer feel purpose and inspiration?
    • Have you outgrown your job’s limitations and scope?
  • Do you feel listened to, encouraged, supported, or ignored?
  • Do you get good actionable feedback and coaching? If not, are you asking for it?
  • Do you feel that your development goals are actively supported or merely an annual activity that stops at making a list?
  • Do you feel valued, recognized for the work you do or when you go above and beyond? For your personal growth and development?

If any of the answers to the questions above are no, what are YOU doing about it? Are you being honest with your employer? Yourself? If more than one answer was a NO it may be time to look for other opportunities outside of your current job, current team, or current company. But be sure to do your research to find a job or company that fits what you’re looking for.

Employers – you have a responsibility too. If you have significant turnover, I recommend doing exit interviews. Give those employees a chance to tell you why they’re leaving. It may offer no actionable information, but if you listen it may point to a problem or trend that you can act on to retain your employees. We all know the cost of recruiting and training new employees. But that cost goes beyond financial in the impact on customer service and remaining employee morale for those who must pick up the extra workload of the ones who left. If they don’t want to do the exit interview, then you need to do an honest look at the excessive turnover. Was it all from one office or one team? If so, what is going on there?

Avoid the easy, take-no-accountability excuses of “they left for more money”- unless it’s true. If you do employee surveys, take an honest look at the feedback instead of trying to put some kind of corporate spin on the answers. Look at the feedback they gave about feeling burned out and how you addressed it. Did you tell them to just do the best they could and then downgraded them on their performance appraisals for not ticking all the boxes? Do you ask them the important questions? Don’t ask them so how’s your engagement, but how are things going?  What can I do or maybe what can “WE” (the collective we) do to help? How is your progress going on reaching your development goals? What can I do to help?  Or maybe just to keep it simple:






Because employee engagement is everybody’s job.

Brenda McDermott, CPCU, SCLA, AIDA, ARM, AIC, CLP, CIIP is a workers’ compensation major case claims specialist for The Hartford, handling catastrophic and complex losses in multiple jurisdictions. She is a Member-at-Large from Missouri and Region V. She is currently serving as the Region V Marketing Director. And will be part of the Twitterati committee at the IAIP International Convention in Louisville. 

Share This