Not feeling satisfied at work? Don’t get mad. Get even!

The sad truth about the state of the American workforce is that a large portion of employees are disengaged, and the statistics are not much more positive, globally. According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workforce Report, only 30% of employees are engaged, 52% are not engaged, and 18% are actively disengaged. The AON Hewitt 2014 Trends in Global Employee Engagement report shows that only 22% of employees are highly engaged, globally. If you can’t relate to this, you are extremely fortunate and a member of a very small group. The multi-trillion dollar question is, “Why is that so, and what can be done about it?”

We all know that dissatisfaction can sometimes be triggered by unfulfilled expectations such as not getting a promotion or pay increase, but more often than not, what makes a difference between employees being engaged or not is how they are being treated and whether they feel valued by their boss(es). A great leader can make up for unfavorable conditions that may exist in the company, and a bad boss can compel people to disengage even in a company that is thriving. 

I’d like to suggest two simple, perhaps not easy, steps you can and should take today to restore enthusiasm and productivity in your workplace. 

STEP 1: 
The first step applies to those with leadership responsibilities, whether it involves a formal title and role or if there are a few people in your organization who are looking up to you and counting on you for leadership. If this is you, the first step you must take is to get your focus off of yourself and on what you can do to create the right environment for those who report to you. A good place to start is to embrace the idea that the people who report to you don’t owe you their full engagement and commitment. All they owe you is compliance. You pay them and in return, they are supposed to do their work. If you want something more than that, you must earn it by creating the conditions in which they willingly offer their full commitment. Leaders who have an entitlement mentality fail to recognize opportunities to create an environment that cultivates engagement. I explain this in greater detail in the One Point Lesson called “Expect Compliance, Inspire Commitment” in my book, The Transformative Leader.

The second step applies to you when/if you find yourself not feeling motivated and committed, whether you have leadership responsibilities or not.  What if you have a boss with an entitlement mentality who has no clue how to be a servant leader? Do you wait for them to be enlightened before you can feel vibrant and energized again, or is there something else you can do?  I know firsthand how tough it is to deal with the emotional drain of that situation while trying to maintain a certain level of performance; it’s not easy. I also know that the first and most important step in turning any unfavorable situation around is to take responsibility for your own emotions and actions so you can fully exert your influence on your circumstance. The second step I would suggest then, is to take the matter in your own hands and wage an all-out revenge against your employer or boss by bringing your best to work, and going above and beyond the call of duty to do a great job! 

Of course, the first reaction I get to this suggestion is always one of bewilderment and confusion.  This is what you may be feeling as you read this, but let me explain... The basis for my suggestion is that while the obvious reason most of us go to work is to get a paycheck, there are far more valuable benefits that are available in a fulfilling and thriving career. You ought to think of your job as a business deal where you trade your time and ultimately a good part of your life, just to underscore the enormity of what hangs in the balance, for whatever you receive in return. If you are stuck in a place that gives you a paycheck and sucks the life out of you, you seriously ought to consider moving on, but if for whatever reason you have chosen to stay, it is time to get even and not settle for just a paycheck in return for your time and talent. 

If you are not satisfied with the amount of money you make or the position you are in, take revenge by maximizing the other benefits you get out of your job, such as learning new skills, developing the ability to perform under unfavorable conditions, experiencing the satisfaction of knowing you are doing your best, and so on. These are all the things that we give up on when we find a reason to be dissatisfied with our job, our boss, or our employer. We drag ourselves to work and do the minimum that we need to do to get by. We begin to relate to ourselves as victims who have no control over their circumstances, and find ourselves trapped in a situation where someone else’s actions determine the quality of our experience. Can you see how an unmet expectation, or a few unproductive actions, or habits of your boss can end up robbing you of the vibrant, satisfying experience you could have? The interesting thing is that while your boss may have control over your promotion or pay raise, how you choose to experience your current circumstances is in your direct control. 

So, your greatest revenge, if you are not appreciated or valued or compensated appropriately, while you choose to stay, is to at least make sure you get everything else you can get out of the experience. This week, I’d urge you to try this on and to be intentional to do your best and harvest the benefits.

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