Are you happy at work? Do you feel like your opinions matter? Are you asked for your input on decisions that affect your job? No? That's partly what keeps Shirley Engelmeier in business. As CEO of InclusionInc, a consulting firm, Engelmeier finds workplaces that are clueless about their employee retention challenges.
"The No. 1 thing workers say is, 'Ask me. I'm the one who does the job.' But that's not what many organizations are doing," Engelmeier said.
The job market has been stuck in neutral for several years. But if the economy peps up in 2012, there will be a flood of pent-up escapes by workers who are bored or exhausted or who generally feel underappreciated.
When Engelmeier goes into a company as a consultant, she provides some top-down advice to employers about how to listen to the troops.
"Get over yourself," Engelmeier said she often has to — politely — tell employers. "You have to let command and control fade away. The workplace is changing."
But her message isn't solely directed to the boss. Sure, managers set the workplace rules, the tone, the atmosphere of inclusion or camaraderie. Even the lowliest rank-and-file worker, though, can help nudge that in the right direction, she believes.
"Don't just sit there passively and feel ignored," Engelmeier said. "Build relationships. Build connections with your co-workers. Try to have your voice be heard by letting people know that you have ideas, that you have suggestions to solve problems."
If you try to do that, it's important you understand how your ideas fit in with the organization's core business strategy.
You can't come out of left field with off-the-point ideas or you won't be taken seriously. But thoughtful suggestions from someone who does the job — and does it well — should be listened to with an open mind.
If that kind of contribution is ignored or you don't get a clear explanation about why your input can't be acted on, then it may be time to explore other opportunities.