Personal engagement: it’s a relationship thing!

As so many of us focus on the newness of setting goals and resolutions, I find myself looking back over various relationships with friends, coworkers, and others that were once new and have now matured to be strongly connected and bonded.

The day-to-day work I do is something routinely accomplished within hundreds of organizations. Although some of these organizations may have more resources and are perhaps more sophisticated in their processes than my own, what these organizations don’t have are my friends and those who I have come to care about.

I used to believe a job that allowed me to accomplish meaningful work, utilize my talents, and recognize my accomplishments was the real key to career happiness…to true engagement. I pictured myself accomplishing goals and completing projects much to the delight of my superiors and earning that ego-affirming bonus or raise. Truth be told, these things are important and something I strive for. Yet, when I find myself completing a task that can be, shall we say, less than fulfilling, it is my coworkers-turned-friends that make the job more meaningful and fulfilling.

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It was not always this way. Like any new hire in any organization, at first I spent lunches alone, felt awkward at company events, and had to endure hearing the “who is she?” question just out of earshot. Over time, I saw how people in the organization built bonds with one another and how they eventually did the same with me.

In previous jobs, I interacted with those I worked with, attended the obligatory coworker’s family event, and said hello as necessary. Years after, there are a few people from each of those jobs who I consider to be friends…but only a few.

What I have come to realize is that engagement often seems to be a term employees believe an organization should own. For example, engagement is a word often mentioned as part of “problem” for an organization to solve.

Instead, I have learned how to create my own personal engagement by bonding with those I work with.

I created my own sense of engagement by:

1. Sharing personal stories with coworkers, like what funny things a parent said and how my dog chewed my favorite pillow. I became comfortable with laughing a little…and connecting by sharing the most mundane topics.

2. Stopping the multitasking when a coworker offered to share a personal story with me. I gave him or her my full, undivided attention, making the moment about them.

3. When coworkers or others in my organization (or industry) did not reach out to me, seemed to ignore me, or for whatever reason do not connect with me, I tried my best to keep it in perspective. I realized that some people are slow to trust, have personal issues, or are simply not ready to be vulnerable with newer organizational or industry members.

The more bonds I built, the more I found I was inexplicably, personally engaged in my work.

Try it, but don’t get discouraged if it takes time. The rewards are worth the effort!

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