Man with laptop on top of head, such is the extent to which he is disengaged at work
Image: Lipik Stock Media/Shutterstock

Are you feeling disengaged at work? Here’s how to re-engage

24 Jul 2018

You’re not always going to be totally enthusiastic about your job, but if some fleeting boredom has evolved into a chronic sense of disconnect from your work, you may need to ask yourself what’s going on and what you can do about it.

‘Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ is one of those adages that is often cited but rarely interrogated – if it were, it would quickly become apparent how untrue it is.

You’re obviously going to be considerably unhappier in a job you don’t like, and staying in a role that isn’t suited to your skills will quickly erode your confidence and stifle your development. But even if you have nabbed your dream role, the reality is that some days are going to be better than others.

What happens, however, when what began as the occasional day of feeling a little disconnected soon becomes the norm? What do you do when you find your eyes glazing over for most of the day and you realise you’ve actually lost touch with what made you like your work in the first place?

What does disengagement look like?

Assigning a set of uniform symptoms to the state of disengagement is pretty pointless because the ways these things manifest tend to be as varied as the people themselves who exhibit the symptoms. However, there are some core signs that could indicate you are disengaged if you recognise them within yourself.

If you find yourself dreading going into work or not particularly motivated to complete your deliverables, that is, of course, clear evidence. That said, there are plenty of disengaged people who still achieve their goals out of natural conscientiousness – the difference is that their motivation halts at the minimum required.

A disengaged person may be doing everything they’re supposed to, but they may have stopped dreaming up ways that they can develop and grow in their role. When that begins to take hold, it’s really only a matter of time until the apathy begins to bleed into your every task.

Why are you disengaged at work?

Insight is invaluable when these kinds of existential crises take hold. What is behind this newfound sense of boredom?

How do your daily duties align with what you assumed your role would be like when you entered the job? If there’s a disconnect, that could have sown the seed of discontent.

Are your skills being utilised to their full extent, or is the work you’re doing beneath your capabilities?

Answering these kinds of questions won’t fix the problem itself, but it will help you figure out what you need to do to address them. Though daunting, it may be a good idea to approach a manager with your concerns once you establish the problem.

Remember that you have to tread lightly with these things. For example, if you want to broach it with a manager that your skills are a little underutilised, it may be better to spin it in a way that doesn’t imply blame. Instead of saying ‘You are not utilising my skills’, say ‘I would love to find a way to challenge myself more in my working week and test my skills.’ The latter orients your request in a way that seems less like you’re being critical and more like you want to be the best possible employee you can be for your organisation.

Find your purpose and set your goals

It’s difficult to motivate yourself if you feel like you’re going through the quotidian motions of your working life with no particular purpose, rudderless and adrift like flotsam bobbing in the waves.

A time when you’re feeling disengaged is the perfect opportunity to do a self-inventory of what your purpose is within your organisation and more generally. If that still comes up short, you can manufacture a new sense of purpose by setting yourself some goals.

Sit down and try to figure out where you want to see yourself in one year, three years and five years, respectively. What kind of things do you want to achieve and what kind of skills would you like to develop? Do you want to gain any kind of new qualification? Most importantly, how much of that is possible where you are right now?

Doing this will help you consider your current position within the grander scheme of your career trajectory. This will enliven what you’re doing with a sense of purpose by allowing you to see it as a stepping stone to what you want in the future.

It can also help you map out practical steps you can take in the short term to achieve these goals, bringing your career focus into sharp relief.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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