How many of your employees are simply not engaged any more? Are there some who seem to just be going through the motions of their job? Yeah, they show up every day. They do the essential tasks. They don’t miss deadlines or cause any major screw ups. But something is clearly missing. The spark has gone out of them and out of their work. They no longer speak up in meetings. They no longer volunteer to take on the additional project, to go the extra mile.
Maybe they are just plum bored.
The word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek, “enthousiasmos,” literally possessed by a god but it also meaning inspired or the spirit within. These employees, have they lost their internal spirit for the work they do.
We can be motivated by work that is challenging, interesting, exciting, always changing, people-interactive, providing rich learning, and so on. Granted, these motivators can carry us for quite awhile. But I believe that for just about all of us there is another ingredient that has to be in place. We have to have a sense that the work we do will have a positive impact on others–someone, somewhere, somehow.
In the end, if our work seems to us to be only about us and for us, it will become soul-damaging. Boredom is an advance indicator of meaning starting to drain out of your work. Ultimately, it’s an existential issue: why are you here on the planet? what really matters to you? what do you want to accomplish in all those waking hours you spend at work? do you want them to make a difference at all? (if so) to whom? (if not) why not?
So, when when you see one of your employees slipping into complacency and when all the more mundane, practical explanations don’t apply, try out one or two of these questions. See if you can invite him or her to identify those “others” who are served by the work he/she does.