The number one driver of your engagement

Some time ago, I was chatting with the business head of an incredibly successful hospitality chain. In the course of our conversation, he made a statement – “The manager does not create employee engagement, engaged employees create a manager.”

I was reminded of a participant in one of my workshops, who had a track record of changing jobs every two years. Yet, in his current job, he had spent almost a decade. He credited his wife for this significant achievement (not his boss or the Company). Almost eight years ago, when he was about to leave his current company for another job, his wife asked him a simple question, “How long will you keep running away?” Something changed inside him.

Research reveals that whether you have an innate sense of gratitude for what you have, or an innate sense of entitlement, will determine for sure how happy you are or you are not, not just in your job, but also in your life.

When I ask people what is the difference between their college life and their corporate life, I often get answers like “Now we have a performance appraisal”, “I have to be careful about what impressions I make in the corporate world”, “I have a boss”, and so on. One answer I remember is from a young person who said, “In College I had to pay to learn; here I am paid to learn!” (Exclamation is mine). Who do you think will be happier at work?

One would think that with such an attitude, this person is unlikely to leave a reasonably good workplace. Sadly, even this young person may leave his Organization. Why would high performers with such positive attitude leave?

I can think of a number of inter-connected reasons:

  1. Martyr effect – Heroic attempt to do more than one’s fair share and inability to say No.
  2. Burnout & Stress – All work and nothing else is only sustainable by very few people in the long run.
  3. Health problems – Not enough sleep and lack of fitness will impact everyone eventually.
  4. Relationship issues – Both at work and in personal life. Spending “quality time” in relationships, also require time!
  5. Fear of failure – A new job, lack of defined measures or not being perceived as being successful can be very demotivating for someone whose self-image is that of a high performer.

Research shows that there are some kinds of people who are more suited to deal with the above challenges.

  1.    Purpose focused – For most people, an ideal job is that which uses his or her talent and makes him or her “successful”. But do you really know what you do? To quote Adam Leipzig, “I give children awesome dreams” (“I write books for children that help them fall asleep and have awesome dreams”). Or, “ I help people feel good about themselves”(“I design apparels that are affordable, that enable men and women wearing them feel good about themselves.”) Most successful people focus on the people they serve, not the other way round. Do you have an elevator speech on what you do?
  2. Taking Accountability – Once people know what they do, the next step is to take accountability. Purpose focused people do not externalize. J K Rowling did not say that “I will write only if it is published.” Twelve publishing houses rejected her manuscript before it got published!
  3. Managing self – How do we handle stress? We are conditioned to stress in our society. One of the biggest contributors is the family. Anyone who clears a competitive medical or engineering entrance examination knows about the stressful preparation. Yet, most believe (sometimes in retrospect) that their parents had their best interest in encouraging them because they wanted a better future for them. The same level of stress in an organization will be dysfunctional. One study by PA Consulting Group shows that up to 41 per cent of work for an individual can be dropped, done by others, or delegated. When you plot what you do in an urgent versus important matrix you too will recognize how doing the important non-urgent things will help you free up time in the other three quadrants.  If you think your boss should help you manage your time better, think again. He or she is in the same boat.

These are inter-linked. Managing self requires taking accountability which is easier for purpose focused individuals.

In a reasonably good Organization, the number one driver of your engagement is not the manager or anyone else, it is you. External events are not the sole cause of stress or disengagement; otherwise everyone in a similar context (same team) should be equally engaged or disengaged. They are triggers. The real switch is inside us.

Prasenjit Bhattacharya is a Director at Great Place to Work® Institute, Sri Lanka, as well as, the CEO of Great Place to Work® Institute, India. Views expressed are personal. To view this or other articles of Prasenjit visit

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