5 Ways to Stay Engaged Under Poor Leadership


Workers enthused about what they do for a living tend to be happier and perform their best work. Yet as several polls suggest, many Americans can’t help but feel disconnected in their occupations – a problem exacerbated by overbearing bosses, or poor leadership from the president or CEO.

An estimated 85 percent of employees consider themselves “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work, according to a 2017 State of the Workplace analysis conducted by Gallup. Many factors contribute to workplace engagement – or the lack thereof – including advancement opportunities, positive work-life balance, sense of purpose and belonging.

A chief contributor to employees’ detachment from their duties is their supervisor. Indeed, a separate study from Gallup found that just 30 percent of employees received recognition from their bosses within the past week for a job well done on a particular task, and only 20 percent agreed with the statement that their supervisors managed in a way that inspired them to work to their best ability.

Like anyone else, bosses can have their bad days now and then. However, when they regularly fail to lead, set unrealistic expectations or contribute to a toxic work environment through their mannerisms and interactions – the effects can be devastating on company morale, and more specifically, your desire to magnify your role. Your boss’ bad temper may originate from senior leadership, i.e. the CEO or president, which is proof of the cascading effect that poor leadership can have on morale.

Although it may be more challenging, the enthusiasm you have for your work doesn’t necessarily depend on your boss’ or the CEO’s inability to lead. Here are a few ways you can remain positive and not be adversely affected by managerial incompetence:

1. Seek meaning
Few payoffs are more rewarding than a highly satisfied customer. No matter what you do for a living, chances are that it somehow makes a difference in the lives of other people. Meaning inspires engagement. Reflect on any praise you’ve received from clients or customers. Try to replicate the same work you did for them so you can make life a little bit easier or more enjoyable for future clientele.

2. Diagnose your lack of engagement 
Unengaged or being actively disengaged may not be attributable to your boss. It could be that you feel like you’re spinning your wheels in your current position or in one that’s not putting your best skills to use. Or maybe it’s because you’re being asked to do something different. Whatever it is, get to the bottom of why you feel unengaged and determine if it’s possible to overcome your discomfort. If so, create an action plan to address these issues.

3. Take a break
We all need to get away from the daily grind now and then, even though many Americans seem to be burning the candle at both ends. According to data from the U.S. Travel Association, a majority of Americans – 52 percent – ended 2017 with unused vacation hours. Utilizing personal time off allows you to refresh and re-evaluate your work situation. It may be just the thing you need to rediscover what motivated you to work hard when you first signed on with the company, or might find an alternative source of inspiration. It can also help you map out a long-term strategy, whether it’s with the company or not.

4. Make it fun
Your attitude can be a powerful source of inspiration. A great way to induce engagement derives from finding fun in the work you do. Whether it’s making use of your problem-solving talents or interacting with co-workers in a team environment, seek out enjoyment to turn a negative situation into a positive.

5. Talk to a mentor or parent 
Disengagement isn’t a battle you need to wage alone. Odds are a mentor, close friend or parent has experienced what you’re feeling. Talk to someone you feel close with to gain a third-party perspective. People whose opinions you value may be able to offer suggestions on how to become more engaged, or offer insight on what they’ve done to counter the side effects of poor leadership.

By undergoing some self-reflection and tapping into your available resources, you can re-ignite your occupational ambitions, and potentially avoid leaving your role, solely because of poor leadership.