Feeling Like We’re Stealing: It’s How to Know When You’re Really Engaged

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Every time I get paid, I feel as if  I’m stealing. I just can’t believe that I am getting paid to do this.

I was watching an interview last week, and when I heard that statement,  I immediately stopped what I was doing to listen more. Unfortunately, the interview was basically over, and not only that, I didn’t catch the person who said it.

But that sentence stood with me throughout the day.

Are you stealing?

With all the disillusioned workers out there [about two-thirds of the workforce], it was a good to hear someone talk about hitting the bullseye. He said he works sometimes on weekends and late into the night without worry, and I contrasted that with people complaining about having to stay past the allotted time and (God forbid) work on weekends.

An infographic published by Socialcast (left) illustrates that happy and engaged employees are more efficient and productive workers.

And sadly, Americans happy with their work environment has decreased in the past four years, going from over 51 percent down to 47 percent.Office-Bliss-FINAL

My theory is that organizational dysfunction is rooted in people not wanted to be there, wherever “there” is.

People come to work, and some of us shed like a reptile. That shedding includes leaving the baggage from home, our lives, and whatever else is bothering us. I’m sure this gentleman I listened too leaves it all by the doorway on the way in.

However, people who bring all their dysfunction carry it on their backs and they disrupt everyone else’s life as a result.

We all know them. They constantly complain all the time. If the organization open a storage room full of cash and allowed them in to take what they wanted, it would only be a matter of time before they would hit the complain switch again.

My prescription

Based on all these symptoms, my prescription would be for anyone who has them should go. They need to find something that they at least enjoy doing and LEAVE.

I counseled one of our workers one time to take the weekend and think about what they wanted to do. I talked about it in terms of “how this job is not working for you,” and “why do you put yourself through this?”

That following Monday, the worker I counseled stuck his head in the door. I was curious since he had this smile on his face.

He proceeded to tell me that this was his best weekend in quite a while. He said after our conversation, he thought about his life and just did not want to continue putting up the facade any longer.

He knew he did not want to be here and now he was determined to move on and find his sweet spot. I assured him that we would get him some severance to make the transition a little easier.

Fast forward eight (8) years later, and I am riding on the subway in New York when I hear someone call my name. I looked up and there was my former employee and he was beaming.

We hugged, and this being the New York subway, everybody looked up. He proceeded to thank me for having that conversation. He talked about the new endeavor that he landed after leaving and how his life just blossomed. He loved what he is now doing.

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I thought of Steven the other day and was happy that he felt as if he was stealing.

Feeling like we’re stealing

There are a few of us out here that have the feeling we’re stealing when it comes to our jobs. I think of that every Friday/Saturday [weekends here in the Middle East] when I am reading another white paper as if I have an exam coming up.

My daughter Lauren called me from college one night years ago, and she told me how she would be glad when she graduated because she would never pick up another book to study again.

My short reply was that once you graduate  is when the studying really begins. It never stops; that is, it never does if you are doing what you really want to do.

Before I left New York to come work here in Saudi Arabia, I would sometimes pass her room, [she is now a dual major grad from Penn State] on Saturdays and there she was, reviewing or reading work between our conversation.

There was always this sly smile on my face as I walked out of her room realizing that she was working harder than she had ever worked, but also, that she loves marketing, so there was no complaints.

You know it and everybody around you know it

We go through life ignoring signals that our body sends us. We know when we are uncomfortable; we know when things just don’t add up. From time to time, our gut tells us all the things we need to know, but we continue to ignore them.

We are always tired, exhausted, and just mentally whipped. We begin to hate Saturdays because the next day is Sunday and you know what MONDAY is. At the least provocation, we over respond.

We have all been there.

But sooner or later, you will have to deal with it one way or the other. My suggestion to everyone is to deal with as soon as you can so that you can become a career thief, too.

Trust me; when you do, you’ll find it is utopia.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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