Take engaging your boss and work into your hands

The concept of employee engagement is now over two decades old. The manager was identified as its most important driver at the time and this has not changed. But it seems to be one of those self-perpetuating beliefs that we need to question.

Studies reveal a clear correlation between engagement and productivity, and quality and creativity. But if it is so important to my career, why would I sit back and wait for my boss to engage me? What if he is disengaged and waiting for his boss to engage him? Where does this chain cease?

Here’s how we can take charge of our engagement.

ACCOUNTABILITY Whenever there is a crisis involving multiple teams in an organisation, most are busy justifying why they did their part. In a recent case, one person took the initiative and formed a WhatsApp group of the people concerned (including the boss), and scheduled a meeting to discuss options.

Being accountable begins with a sense of purpose and alignment with the organisation’s mission. It is not dependent on a person’s level or job. Accountability also means knowing when to say ‘no’ to something you will not be able to do well. Your ‘yes’ has no value if you cannot say ‘no.’

EXPERTISE Many would have heard about the 10,000-hour rule researched by Anders Ericsson and popularised by Malcolm Gladwell, which claims that practising a skill for over 10,000 hours will make you an expert in it.

But a programmer who merely writes code without understanding business logic will not go far. The software industry has developed another role called the business analyst who is meant to understand not only what the customer needs but also why – by investing additional time
to develop the ability to understand the customer’s business and logic behind his requirements. Over time, the programmer can even question this logic and offer more innovative options to the customer.

This might require you to leave your comfort zone and develop good habits like investing the first 60 minutes of the day doing what you’re not comfortable doing.

ENTERPRISE At the end of the day, there are only two types of employees: the one who approaches the boss with a challenge, and the other who comes with a challenge and solution.

In a company manufacturing soap, occasionally there would be a packet of soap in the automated process without anything inside it. When all experts failed to come up with a cost-effective solution, an operator simply installed a fan that blew air with sufficient force to displace an empty packet from the assembly line!

The largest obstacle to your career is a belief that you are a prisoner of circumstances with your boss holding the power to engage or disengage you. It does not matter whether this assumption is right or wrong; it is a self-fulfilling assumption that will not help your development or career.

Your boss will be your closest ally if you take charge of not only your engagement but his or hers as well. An engaged boss will invest more discretionary effort in your development.

BY Prasenjit Bhattacharya