Down And Out And Disengaged

If your federal agency is like my federal agency, your engagement scores for Fiscal Year 2015 either went down, stayed the same or rose just a smidgen. Like me, you may belong to a racial group whose engagement tallies bottomed out despite the good news in other engagement camps. Where I work, American Indians/Alaska Natives had the lowest engagement health of any racial group in my agency as well as my department. This phenomenon has been going on for the last 7 years.

Think about it for a second. The last time my racial group at my agency was not the lowest engaged group:

• Gas cost $3.39 per gallon.
• The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series.
• Fidel Castro stepped down a Cuba’s President.
• General Motors had the biggest loss ever of any US carmaker.
• Apple sold its first MacBook Air notebook.
• The federal government approved the growing of food from cloned animals.
• CA became the second state to legalize same sex marriage.

Disengagement is a negative macro-message of the cruelest kind. It greets you when you:

• Apply for a job.
• File a complaint.
• Compete for a detail.
• Influence your boss.
• Position yourself for a detail.
• Ask for a mentor.
• Write a blog post.
• Draft an email.
• Engage your team.

Disengagement greets you every morning at work and follows you home every night. It is ubiquitous like an odorless gas you cannot see that slowly infects you in the workplace.

Some thought leaders claim that disengagement can seep into your personal life and affect your sleep patterns, diminish your longevity and dampen your sex life.

I often ask other American Indian/Alaska Native employees who have been at my agency longer than I have why our people are the most checked out group of employees in the joint. They don’t have a good answer. They claim it has always been like that. I guess culture does eat strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

Chronically disengaged workers fall victim to the butterfly effect–the notion that small actions over time have huge effects. Disengagement feels like a layer of mole hills piled on one after another until Disconnection Mountain is formed.

These negative messages of disengagement eventually turn into stereotypes. American Indians/Alaska Natives are soon labeled:

• Lazy.
• Unmotivated.
• Not manager material.
• Uneducated.
• Not team players.

Caroline Laguerre-Brown claims that persistently disengaged workers often feel:

• Unwelcomed.
• Unvalued.
• Unsupported.
• Invisible.
• Marginalized.

As one long-time American Indian/Alaska Native employee told me recently, we may be disengaged, but at least we have jobs. I will try to remind myself of that wisdom the next pay period.

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