I am sure you have all experienced it as often as I have — the worker who has decided that their job is not meant to offer customer service — or any service at all. Their job is only to fill a particular space for a particular amount of time and receive their paycheck at the end of the week. This attitude doesn’t just effect retail and other customer service operations, though. Nearly any company can fall victim to employees who have just stopped trying.
I am writing about this phenomenon not to blame you or shame you. In most cases, if you are taking the time to read or listen to Career Opportunities, you have already shown the initiative to improve your career. There are times, though, when those around you can start to exhibit this behavior or, even worse, when problems with your work can lead you down the path to disengagement and despair. I want you to clearly understand the warning signs so you can avert disaster.
Are you disengaged?
There are several causes for disengagement in your job, nearly all of which have a solution. Sometimes in the depths of a career problem, though, we can fail to see the way out. Perhaps your job isn’t challenging. This happens to many people. They start in an entry-level position which they outgrow before the company has a new position to offer them – or before upper management notices. They are disengaged simply because there is not enough to do. As common as this might be, this is no excuse. If your job is not challenging you, then it is up to you to find new challenges within your job or expand it of your own accord.
One of the easiest solutions is to find additional tasks that you can do when your own work is done. Anyone who has worked in food service has surely heard the phrase, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.” It is a manager’s way of, unsubtly, telling you to do something other than stand around. You can use this cliche to your advantage, though. Offering your hands to other workers or your manager shows a sense of initiative. It also allows you to investigate the other jobs that surround yours. You might find that another position interests you more than your current one. If you hadn’t taken the time — made the offer — to help, you might never have known.
You can’t use this as an excuse for not doing your assigned work, however. If you want to move to a different position, you have to work your way up or over and not simply abandon you current job. Doing so will undo all the good you have tried to accomplish and leave people wondering if they can trust you with higher responsibilities.
Is your management disengaged?
Management problems can also cause disengagement among employees. If you are trying your best, but still having difficulties in your job, you may need to examine this possibility further. Too often, management can make work more difficult and discourage workers from doing their job well. It seems ludicrous, but when management fails to reward good service and good work, employees will disengage from their work and simply “do their time.” Does management fail to listen to you? Do they seem to not care about your work? Are your managers disengaged themselves? This is probably the worst situation, as any initiative on your part will probably be seen as a threat by your manager. This quickly leads to friction and even more disengagement.
Unfortunately, in this situation, there may be little that you can do. You could attempt to be promoted to replace your manager. You could take your concerns to the next level of management or you could simply leave and find a better job where you won’t have to face such roadblocks. All of these options have their own issues, but if you truly like your job and the company where you work, you might want to consider fighting to make it better.
Being disengaged from your work is a warning sign we all need to heed. Whether this disengagement comes from an unchallenging job, unchallenged co-workers or unchallenged management, it is up to you to find a way out. Failing to do so could leave you disgruntled, depressed and disengaged from your work and will surely damage your overall career.