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Engaging individuals

Dr. Simon Moss

Overview

Sometimes, individuals feel inspired and engaged when they undertake a task at work. This sense of engagement and motivation is spontaneous, not demanding significant effort. On other occasions, individuals feel uninspired, exhausted, and lethargic.

Regulation of mood

Step 1. Supervisors should implement a variety of strategies that are intended to improve the mood, and curb the anxiety, or other individuals. For example, they could encourage employees to reflect upon their future aspirations, to concede rather than conceal their concerns, to engage in some altruistic act, preferably to assist a colleague, and to consider the causes they would like to pursue as well as their collaborators in this endeavor (for more information, see Alleviating anxiety).

If individuals can alleviate their anxiety, effortlessly and seamlessly, they become more likely to pursue activities that align with their core values, which fosters a sense of engagement rather than pressure (e.g., Baumann & Kuhl, 2005 Kazen, Baumann, & Kuhl, 2003). Furthermore, the sense of safety and meaning these activities instill has also been shown to promote engagement (Kahn, 1990;& May, Gilson, & Harter, 2004).

Step 2. Nevertheless, to foster a sense of excitement, particularly when the task is not especially demanding, employees should be encouraged to modify their activities to ensure they need to memorize more features. For example, rather than consult a document that stipulates the various steps they need to conduct, they should attempt to memorize these phases. In short, they should attempt to increase the difficulty of simple tasks.

Enjoyable tasks promote a sense of engagement only if the activity demands sufficient effort and concentration. That is, when individuals formulate the plan to undertake a challenging but plausible task, their sense of enthusiasm and energy rises abruptly (Waterman, 2005). If the task is too simple, they do not experience this surge of excitement or absorption (see also ).

Leadership

Step 1. Leaders should attempt to promote an inspiring vision of the future. Specifically, they should first identify and describe the unique qualities and history of the organization or workgroup--skills, interests, and knowledge that are scarce but valuable. Second, they should specify how these unique characteristics could translate into some inspiring possibilities in the future, emphasizing outcomes that could help many people. Finally, they should demonstrate how the tasks and roles of each person or workgroup are vital to these possibilities.

This inspiring vision ensures that employees feel their role is meaningful--a sense that enhances engagement (Arnold, Turner, Barling, Kelloway, & McKee, 2007). Furthermore, qualities that are perceived as scarce are regarded as more valuable (King, Hicks, & Abdelkhalik, 2009), which could also instil a sense of meaning (Baumeister, 1991) and thus engagement (May, Gilson, & Harter, 2004;& for other sources of meaning, see Meaning in life).

Setting goals

Step 1. Individuals should first attempt to experience a sense of autonomy. For example, they could envisage the life they yearn five years in the future. Alternatively, they could clench their left fist for two minutes--an action that has been shown to clarify the values of individuals (Baumann, Kuhl, & Kazen, 2005). Finally, they could engage in exercises that are intended to foster relaxation (see Alleviating anxiety), such as evaluating the sensations in their bodies, systematically shifting from their feet, to the torso, and finally their arms and head.

After individuals experience these states, they become more cognizant of their core values--of the activities that align with their key priorities (see also Baumann & Kuhl, 2005 Levesque & Pelletier, 2003). That is, these states activate a circuit that represents personal values and inclinations, called extension memory (see also Personality systems interaction theory).

Step 2. Once they experience this sense of autonomy, individuals should specify three or so aspirations they would like to achieve. Perhaps they would like to learn a specific skill, help a particular community, and so forth. Next, they should specify one possible activity they could complete within one week that could promote this aspiration, but is not essential. Third, they should immediately contact another person who needs to be involved in this activity as a means to secure their commitment. Only after this activity is completed should they specify some specific goals that need to be achieved.

Plans tend to be more inspiring if they do not include too many specific details (Gonzales, Burgess, & Mobilo, 2001). Specifically, when individuals construct plans with a specific sequence of concrete and specific activities, they become aware of various obstacles that could impede their aspirations. They begin to doubt the likelihood of their success, which tempers their engagement.

Step 3. At some stage, individuals list various skills they would like to develop or topics they would like to learn--skills or topics that are relevant, but not vital, to their work. If they work in law, for example, they could undertake a course in negotiating. If they work in physiotherapy, they could learn about stress management. For each of these skills or topics, they should rate the extent to which they feel they might be helpful to their community or society. Whenever they feel weary, they should begin the process of developing these skills or acquiring this knowledge. They should prioritize the skills or knowledge that is helpful to the community or society.

After individuals learn challenging skills, either during work time or during the evening, they often feel more refreshed. The sense of challenge and excitement replenishes a form of mental energy (e.g., Winwood, Bakker, & Winefield, 2007;& see also the Effort recovery model). Furthermore, if individuals feel their activities could help the community, feelings of exhaustion and weariness also tend to diminish (Grant & Sonnetag, 2010).

Feedback

Step 1. Employees often need to engage in the same task several times over the course of a month or year. After the first time, managers should discuss this task with employees, asking questions such as "How do you feel you could ensure the task is more productive". The managers should demonstrate their interest in the answers.

Whenever individuals discuss an activity they completed, they begin to perceive this task as more interesting, engaging, and enjoyable, but only if the other person seems attentive (Thoman, Sansone, & Pasupathi, 2006). That is, when individuals discuss an activity, they essentially relive the event. If the other person seems attentive and interested, they perceive this event as enjoyable and engaging. Hence, their memory of the event is more favorable. If they engage in similar activities in the future, they will, as a consequence, feel more engaged and absorbed.

The environment

Step 1.In the work environment, individuals should be able to observe nature. Scenic pictures could be attached to walls. Plants could be placed in offices, and so forth.

When individuals are exposed to nature, they become more inclined to direct their attention towards their immediate environment. As a consequence, individuals do not feel their behavior is governed by obligations;& a sense of autonomy thus gradually evolves. This sense of autonomy activates more important values rather than merely an urge to pursue money or power (Weinstein, Przybylski, & Ryan, 2009;& see Self determination theory).

Customizing to personality traits

Step 1. Some employees prefer familiar tasks and routines. That is, they like to follow specific instructions and procedures rather than engage in novel, diverse, and complex activities. To inspire these individuals, supervisors should emphasize specific, concrete duties and targets--duties and targets that need to be completed within a week or so.

Individuals who are not especially open, creative, or curious prefer certainty and clarity. Only specific and tangible goals align with this preference and instill a sense of congruence or resonance, which promotes engagement (Vaughn, Baumann, & Klemann, 2008).

References

Arnold, K. A., Turner, N., Barling, J., Kelloway, E., K., & McKee, M. C. (2007). Transformational leadership and psychological well-being: the mediating role of meaningful work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12, 193-203.

Baumann, N., & Kuhl, J. (2005). How to resist temptation: The effects of external control versus autonomy support on self-regulatory dynamics. Journal of Personality, 73, 443-470.

Baumann, N., Kuhl, J., & Kazen, K. (2005). Left-hemispheric activation and self-infiltration: Testing a neuropsychological model of internalization. Motivation and Emotion, 29, 135-163.

Baumeister, R. F. (1991). Meanings of life. New York: Guilford.

Gonzales, M. H., Burgess, D. J., & Mobilo, L. J. (2001). The allure of bad plans: Implications of plan quality for progress towards possible selves and postplanning energization. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 23, 87-108.

Grant, A. M., & Sonnetag, S. (2010). Doing good buffers against feeling bad: Prosocial impact compensates for negative task self-evaluations. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 111, 13-22.

Kahn, W. A. (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of Management Journal, 33, 692-724.

Kazen, M., Baumann, N., & Kuhl, J. (2003). Self-infiltration vs self-compatibility checking in dealing with unpleasant tasks: The moderating influence of state vs action orientation. Motivation and Emotion, 27, 157-197.

King, L. A., Hicks, J. A., & Abdelkhalik, J. (2009). Death, life, scarcity, and value: An alternative perspective on the meaning of death. Psychological Science, 20, 1459-1462.

Levesque, C., & Pelletier, L. G. (2003). On the investigation of primed and chronic autonomous and heteronomous motivation orientation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1570-1584.

May, D. R., Gilson, R. L., & Harter, L. M. (2004). The psychological conditions of meaningfulness, safety, and availability and the engagement of the human spirit at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 77, 11-37.

Thoman, D. B., Sansone, C., & Pasupathi, M. (2006). Talking about interest: Exploring the role of social interaction for regulating motivation and the interest experience. Journal of Happiness Studies, 8, 335-370.

Vaughn, L. A., Baumann, J., & Klemann, C. (2008). Openness to experience and regulatory focus: Evidence of motivation from fit. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 886-894.

Waterman, A. S. (2005). When effort is enjoyed: Two studies of intrinsic motivation for personally salient activities. Motivation and Emotion, 29, 165-188.

Weinstein, N., Przybylski, A. K., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Can nature make us more caring? Effects of immersion in nature on intrinsic aspirations and generosity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1315-1329.

Winwood, P., Bakker, A. B., & Winefield, A. H. (2007). An investigation of the role of non-work-time behavior in buffering the effects of work strain. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 49, 862-871.



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Last Update: 5/7/2016