Forget engagement, are you flourishing at work?

Employee engagement scores look great on the annual survey, but it's time for a new approach to working and feeling better says Jen Rolfe.

by Jen Rolfe
Last Updated: 29 Feb 2016

"I love my job most of the time… but recently everything is changing…"
"Everything was great until this new boss came in…"
"I miss the actual client work I was doing, now I spend all my time dealing with my team."

These are just a few of the stories I hear during or after I deliver workshops. I’ve felt them myself, and I bet you have too.

Both my work and research have led me to the firm conclusion that people aren’t just ‘engaged’ or ‘not engaged’ at work, as the big annual survey companies would have us believe. Yes, engagement might  show trends over periods of time, but I believe that engagement actually fluctuates many times daily, and it is those fluctuations that impact our performance. If you’ve ever had bad feedback in a meeting or an inexplicable priority shift from your boss, you’ll know what I mean. This recent analysis seems to agree with me.
Flourishing at work is different to engagement; it is contextual. It is paying attention to the right things, and making small behavioural changes in order to have a better day and perform at your best. I researched what flourishing people do on their very best days, and revealed six elements that really matter. And the best news is, anyone can learn to do it.

Flourishing people feel that they are in control, they focus on what they are in charge of and their sphere of influence. Even if the problem lies with someone’s attitude towards you, write down all the ways you can behave or communicate with them that could change the situation for the better.

Adding value
Why do you do what you do? What daily impact do you have? This doesn’t have to be an ‘obvious’ higher calling like saving lives. Focusing on any aspect of your day that fulfils your personal values will help, from great customer service to getting a process 100% correct. The more line-of-sight you have between your daily tasks and the impact you’re having, the more satisfying your days will be.

Feeling passionate
If I’m honest, I don’t like the ‘p’ word. But on the good days, flourishing people are grateful, optimistic, and curious about their industry. And ‘passionate’ encompasses those feelings. Not feeling it? Try looking for the latest blogs, vlogs, or social media content creators in your field and learn something you didn’t already know about your sector. Or, connect with someone who has a similar job in another company, and see your role through someone else’s eyes.
Challenge - but not too much
The best days stretch us out of our comfort zone without going so far that we panic. So a boost here may mean you need to either push yourself further, or perhaps reign in your targets. If you’re overwhelmed, try breaking down your goal into things you can achieve in hourly chunks. If you’re coasting, set yourself a target to do your next task faster, with less help, or in a new way. And only reward yourself if you genuinely get there.

Flourishing people know there is a safety net around them; they feel supported enough to explore and push their boundaries. If you’ve a yen for safety, chances are you feel as if you’ve been thrown in at the deep end with too much autonomy. There will be some floatation aids, you just have to find them. If you can’t go directly to your manager, map out the strengths of your colleagues to help you know who to call on in a crisis.

Keeping connected
The majority of people feel better when they’re connected to other human beings. Simply liking your colleagues makes a difference to your day. Sure, we all work with some idiots, but there will be other people who match our wavelengths. Have lunch or coffee with someone you like, or could potentially like, and take an interest in their world. Who knows what you could discover.

Finally, remember that new habits like these usually take a bit of time to become ingrained, but are well worth the effort. For a start, try something that only takes five minutes and practice it. A small change can make a big difference.

Jen Rolfe is founder and director of Practically Positive

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