Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall: Reflecting on Employee Engagement

April 12, 2015 by

Ambivalent EmployeeWhen was the last time you looked in the Mirror of Engagement? As in, when was the last time you explored how engaged you are at work? If you are like most people, not for a while or often enough. With 60% of the global workforce not engaged or disengaged, it is extremely important to explore the reasons why the majority of employees are in the “blah” uninspiring middle category—the costly area of ambivalence.

After nearly 30 years of consulting organizations about employee engagement, I have identified two definitive reasons why such a large percentage of the workforce is ambivalent. First, many of these employees have been given no means or encouragement for seeing their own level of engagement. They don’t have a good understanding of what job factors detract from or enhance their engagement level. In addition, they are given no ideas on what they can do on their own to change their situation and increase their passion for what they do and pride in where they work. It amazes me that the employee engagement survey industry (my former industry) still plays into a “conditional engagement” model, where employees complete surveys and then lean back and wait to be engaged by someone else, as opposed to accepting some ownership for their own engagement. Much like conditional love, conditional engagement is unhealthy and yields poor outcomes, if any at all.

The second reason why so many workers are ambivalent is the overall lack of reflection people have about their job. More specifically, they are not regularly asking themselves questions like:
• “Does my job make the best use of my skills and abilities?”
• “Am I passionate about what I do in my job?”
• “Am I having fun on a regular basis in my job?”

Instead of asking these kinds of questions, people sometimes have the tendency to go on auto-pilot, continuing to do the same thing whether or not they actually enjoy it. When employees aren’t reflective about their jobs, they won’t realize when they are in the wrong position, or as Jim Collins said in his ground-breaking book Good to Great, the “wrong seat on the bus.” That’s why ambivalent employees frequently fail to make any effort to improve their situation, whether it’s pursuing an alternative position or employer, or working to feel more positively about their current role.

So what can you and the ambivalent employees do to correct this at your organization? Quite simply, you can take three valuable steps and encourage your colleagues to do the same:

Step one: Take what I call an “Engagement Selfie” to help you assess how you feel about your current job. This tool will also suggest simple ways in which you can improve your engagement.

Step two: Try guided reflection questions about your job. These questions can help you think differently and inspire you to make small changes that make a big impact:
• Am I clear about what is expected of me in my job, and if not, have I sought clarification?
• What could I do differently to get better at my job?
• Have I actively shared what engages me in my job with my boss?

To access the full list of job reflections, click here.

Step three: Identify changes that would improve your engagement and take action immediately. If you’ve been wanting to learn a new skill, ask your manager for an assignment to help you develop that skill. If you want to improve stress management, make plans to have lunch with co-workers or go for a walk on your break.

Don’t wait for someone to make engagement happen for you. Take a hard look at your reflection and make engagement happen for and by yourself. You will be more satisfied, passionate, prideful, productive, and far happier as a direct result.



Kevin Sheridan is an internationally-recognized Keynote Speaker, a New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of Employee Engagement. For five years running, he has been honored on Inc. Magazine’s top 100 Leadership Speakers in the world, as well as Inc.’s top 100 experts on Employee Engagement. He was also honored to be named to The Employee Engagement Award’s Top 101 Global Influencers on Employee Engagement of 2017.

Having spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant, Kevin has helped some of the world’s largest corporations rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, has been consistently recognized as a long-overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement. His first book, Building a Magnetic Culture, made six of the best seller lists including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He is also the author of The Virtual Manager, which explores how to most effectively manage remote workers.

Kevin received a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in 1988, concentrating his degree in Strategy, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Behavior. He is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded and sold three different companies.

Email: kevin@kevinsheridanllc.com