By Hannah Kaiser

The landscape of the workplace has shifted dramatically in recent years and continues to change. Remote and hybrid work have become increasingly common, fewer people are going into the office, and advancements in technology persistently threaten to change the way work is done. In this unstable and isolated environment, it’s no wonder that so many employees are feeling disengaged

Work engagement is a state of positive emotional investment in one’s work, and leaders have the opportunity to play a major role in empowering employees to revitalize. In a disconnected environment, it’s up to leaders to emphasize the human qualities of work and the workplace. Changing a team’s state of mind by highlighting the significance behind what they do can help engage disconnected employees. 

Increasing engagement is better for everyone. Research clearly indicates that organizations with highly engaged employees tend to be more profitable and more productive. Engaged employees are less likely to actively look for new job opportunities, they make fewer mistakes, and more often go above and beyond in their performance. 

Engaged employees are better employees, but they are also happier employees. Actively engaged workforces have higher average well-being and are more likely to feel as though they are thriving at work. 

Given the importance, how can leaders reengage their teams? 

How leaders can reenergize their team

A classic theory of leadership suggests that there are two major dimensions of leader behavior: consideration and initiating structure. Consideration, the people-oriented dimension, describes how leaders show concern and care for the well-being of the group. Initiating structure, the task-oriented dimension, describes how leaders organize team members around a goal and then direct them to achieve it. 

Leaders will need to embody both of these dimensions to engage their teams. Shaping how team members perceive meaning in their work is necessary, and managing burnout or other sources of disengagement will be equally important. 

Here are some ways you, as a leader, can deal with disengaged team members:

  • Emphasize why it all matters. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds. As a leader, you are in a unique position to help your team refocus on the bigger picture. What is the goal? Why should your team care about reaching it? What would success mean to the organization? To the team? To the individual members?
  • Have members discuss their values. An important aspect of engagement is psychological investment in work. When a team is feeling disconnected, it can help to have them think about what matters most to them. Urge them to find meaning in their work from the perspective of their personal values. Having an open discussion on this topic can also forge closer ties between team members.
  • Recognize struggle and failure. Obstacles and setbacks may threaten a team’s investment in their work. As a leader, you will need to rely on your empathy to support your team through tough spots. Be open and understanding. Forgive and move on.
  • Create a space where members can express themselves. Although the team shouldn’t dwell on their mistakes, it will be important to learn from them. Establish an environment in which your team feels comfortable openly examining recent failures and then discuss how they can improve next time.
  • Reorient. When breakdowns happen, figure out what needs to be fixed and how to fix it. As the team makes adjustments, remind them of their goals and why they should strive to achieve them.
  • Focus on what is most important. When work gets overwhelming, and you sense your team might soon experience burnout, consider what is essential to achieving goals. In some cases, slowing down or reducing the workload may be necessary to prevent disengagement. 

What you can do for yourself

Everyone is vulnerable to burnout. If the leader is disengaged, how can they expect to effectively engage their team?

Here are some ways you can revitalize your own engagement:

  • Acknowledge your strengths. Think about what you are good at and what you have accomplished before. You might create a list to keep with you at work. Or, at the end of every day, take some time to write down three ways your strengths played a role in your performance.
  • Set goals for yourself. Goal-setting is a common method for managers to help employees develop in their performance. However, self-set goals can be just as beneficial, and increase your enthusiasm for your work. 
  • Recognize wins, no matter how small. All personal success matters. Don’t simply move past positive moments, contemplate your accomplishments. Consider writing down at least three moments of success at the end of each day. 
  • Practice amplification exercises. Emotional regulation, or the effort it takes to hide your true emotions, can be taxing. In some cases, it can lead to burnout. You may occasionally need to hide your frustration with a coworker to remain professional, but that shouldn’t mean you need to hide everything you feel. When you experience positive emotion, amplify those feelings (such as open acknowledgment and expression) to protect yourself against emotional burnout. 

Engagement can’t be forced 

Burnout can be thought of as the antithesis of engagement. Where engagement is a state of emotional attachment to work, burnout is a state of emotional detachment from work due to psychological exhaustion. In other words, you can’t be engaged if you don’t have the energy that engagement requires. 

If you are not feeling engaged, it’s not a good idea to try forcing yourself into that state. Instead, you should consider allowing yourself to disconnect from work at the right times. Taking home the stressors of the day will not lead to increased engagement, it will only make you more tired. 

Prioritize your own recovery (or allow members of your team to prioritize their recovery) before worrying about how to reconnect. After you are revitalized, finding your way into a state of engagement should be much easier.

Maximize your success

Identifying policies and systems that work for your organization takes thought and dedication, but ultimately, it will pay off in the long run. If you feel you would benefit from an impartial perspective, we’d love to help. Our organizational effectiveness consulting company helps clients walk through complex business issues every day. We will suggest proven tools and resources to help identify and solve your most difficult organizational and leadership challenges so you, your teams, and your organization can thrive. Contact us for a free consultation at admin@InnovativeConnectionsInc.com or call us at 970-279-3330.

Our mission is to give voice and action to an emerging future. As a partner in your success, we would love to help you find your voice, see your vision, and imagine what the right action could be for you, your team, and your organization.

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