work

Only 30% of employees feel committed to the company they work for, according to the latest worldwide survey carried out by Gallup. To be honest, the figure is hardly encouraging. When you consider that we spend almost a third of our time at work, it is undeniable that our professional life is something that we need to think about seriously if we want to feel happy in general. So, let’s take a look at what commitment actually is, what the different types of commitment are, and what we can do to improve our level of commitment at work.

Do you like dancing? Even if you don’t, you’ll be aware that dancing well –whether it’s a tango, salsa or méringue– takes two. Commitment is just the same: it takes two, the employee and the company. Employees don’t just develop commitment all by themselves (in the same way that you can’t dance a tango on your own). They will feel more or less committed depending on how their company treats them. The word commitment comes from the Latin verb committere meaning to join together, which implies a connection between two different parties- which is something that many organizations “forget”.

The dynamic relationship between a person’s willingness to feel committed, on the one hand, and how his or her company behaves, on the other, can resolve itself in one of three directions: growth, separation or “infidelity” (i.e. carrying on in the company but being open to offers from elsewhere). This dynamic is equally applicable to personal relationships, too. Commitment is only generated when both employee and company derive mutual benefit from the relationship. If, when we’re at work, we’re always dying for Friday to come so that we can get back “our own life”, we are being completely unfaithful- not just to our company, but to ourselves, too. As we remarked before: we spend too many hours at work to feel that we’re wasting our time there.

What exactly induces us to feel commitment? Each person is different, but in general we can feel committed to three different things:

  • To our job: if we like being an engineer, a teacher, a secretary, etc.
  • To our team, our co-workers or our boss i.e. the people we work with … an aspect which is very important in Latin cultures, by the way.
  • To the company and what it represents.

In the “dance” underlying commitment, each partner contributes what motivates them, which will be a combination of the three points mentioned immediately above. (It’s the same in personal relationships, too. Each of us contributes what we believe in, and we expect our other half to do the same). However, there is one particular aspect that we shouldn’t forget. As a result of the economic crisis, commitment to companies is playing an increasingly smaller role, while commitment to our job and those we work with has taken on a greater importance. So, what do companies have to do for workers to feel more committed? The answer is very simple but difficult to implement. If a company wants commitment, it will have to invest in its employees’ economic and emotional reward. However, the current crisis has seen salaries go down in most cases. This leaves emotional reward as the only option left. This means that the workplace must become a stimulating environment where bosses and the general atmosphere play a decisive role. I’ll deal with this subject in detail in a later post.

However, let’s get back to thinking about ourselves as employees. Although we are all committed at least to some extent at work, we don’t show our commitment in the same way or with the same degree of intensity. There are some people who wait for positive developments at work to awaken their commitment, while there are others who always try to do their best in everything that they undertake. People in this second group display higher levels of personal satisfaction and of happiness. Naturally, how our boss and our company act is going to have an enormous influence on us. Nevertheless, it is we, and only we, who decide if we want to fully commit to the tasks entrusted to us at work, or to our co-workers, or to an exam that we have to prepare for. If we are so minded, there will always be reasons to complain…

I remember, years ago, doing some workshops about reinforcing commitment with quite a few branch managers at a bank. Things were booming. Everyone was meeting their targets and earning a well above-average salary. However, the workshops turned into a springboard for the constant airing of complaints. After conducting my first two courses there, I decided to ask a very simple question at the beginning: What forces you to stay at the company? It’s the answer to this question that we need to focus on. Not anyone, nor anything, forces us to stay in our job. If we do stay, it’s because it brings us some benefit, even if it’s only being able to meet our mortgage payments or our everyday expenses. This is a factor that we need to take into account when we think about our how committed we are.

In the end, feeling committed at work isn’t just good for our employer- it’s good for us, too. We can choose to skate over the surface of things at work or, on the other hand, we can really put our heart into everything that we do. What’s more, it doesn’t matter what particular job we do. I’ve known waiters, security guards, soldiers, company directors, teachers and students who were all shining examples of professionalism and commitment. The environments they worked in may have left a lot to be desired, but they were fully committed to the task at hand all the same.

In the final analysis, commitment is a personal decision. If we can’t feel as committed at work as we would like, it may be time to think about moving on. However, if this isn’t possible, we need to focus on the positive aspects of our job, even if it’s just receiving a paycheck each month- which, in times like the present, is no small thing. I come back to the point I made before: we don’t need to feel committed to our job for the good of the company; we need to for our own sake.

Take-away:

Commitment is a personal decision. We must take all the steps necessary to feel committed to what we do.

Tips:

  1. On a scale of one to ten, give yourself a score for how committed you are at work at the moment. Think about when you’ve felt more committed. What did you do differently or how was the situation different?
  2. If you don’t feel fully committed at work, what is stopping you from changing jobs? If you have an alternative, what is stopping you from taking it? What are you prepared to sacrifice in order to change your present work situation?
  3. If you can’t leave your job and you don’t feel very happy in it, reflect on the good things about it. What can you do to see it in a more positive light?

Based on the book: Jericó, Pilar (2011): La nueva gestión del talento (News Paths in Talent Management), Prentice Hall.

LABTAG (1)

Be Sociable, Share!