How do people engage at work?

How do people engage at work?

How do people engage at work? Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Kingston University Business School’s Centre for Research in Employment, Skills and Society (CRESS) has shown that people engage for vastly different reasons. The research has emphasized the distinction between people who do their job mainly to earn a living and others whose emotional attachment is much wider. Their engagement can extend to the organization itself and to colleagues, line managers and customers.

Those engaged primarily with their jobs may well enjoy and take pride in their individual work. But they just want to do it and get on with rest of their lives. It is interesting that the study found that these people who are mainly interested in the technicalities of own work (transactionally engaged) report higher levels of stress. They seem to have more difficulties in achieving a work-life balance than those who are emotionally engaged with the organization.

It can become more complicated when, for example. someone is emotionally engaged mainly with their profession and perhaps even their clients. However they are only transactionally engaged with their current role and the current organisation.

This presents some interesting challenges for those leading change. How they communicate about the change to meet the needs of such a complicated audience.

A change that is being made for the perceivable good of the organization is more likely to be supported by someone emotionally engaged with that organization. The well being of colleagues may well be will be seen to be a priority and so will a clear commitment to manage the change well.

However, a change that threatens the work of an individual who is transactionally engaged may present a much greater risk. Most change managers have encountered the committed and brilliant technical specialist who decides they have no alternative but to subvert a change for the good of their work.So how can you respond?

Well, for a start you need to understand your group. Have a care with the results of engagement surveys which may not distinguish between different kinds of engagement.

What kind of people are in your group and what kind of work do they do? Walk the talk – get out there and meet them. Have conversations and be prepared to listen and to deal with feelings and anxiety.

When you communicate the change be aware that the impact will be different for different kinds of people. Take those different needs into account when you are planning the message. Then recognize the risk that different kinds of engagement might present. If your change threatens the organization itself then you need to manage the risk that presents for those committed to it. But handled the right way they will come with you on the journey.

Those committed mainly just to the job may well simply remove themselves. You risk losing their precious technical skills if they can see nothing in the change for them. If their skills are critical to the organization you may need to consider incentives to stay. These could range from money to opportunities for professional development or even enhanced technical facilities.

As with all change programs, success lies with inspiring people to follow the vision. But that inspiration may come with different strokes for very different kinds of folks

If you need the support of a coach in developing your career as change leader or change manager, then get in touch.

Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach
Wendy Smith, Principal Coach, WiseWolf Life and Career Coaching

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link


2 thoughts on “How do people engage at work?”

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