Look around you, how many of your employees are fully engaged or immersed in their work? How many seem to be finding fulfillment or joy in what they do?
Now, how many of your employees are apathetic and, at best, grudgingly complying with directives and carrying out their roles and responsibilities?
Well, if your experiences are anything like mine in higher education, the number of engaged and fulfilled employees seems to be dwindling. Joy is certainly lacking.
It seems that a large portion of the engaged crowd around here are the newbies. They have yet to have the bureaucracy of higher education suck the life out of them.
Although I am half-joking with the above statement, there is a bit of truth to it, and it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you manage people and your experiences are similar to mine, I want to share three reasons it could be your fault. 
Reason # 1: You don’t really know them …
Your employees need to be known. Anonymity is a job killer—a joy killer.
Employees cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known by and cared for as unique individuals by the person for whom they work. If they see themselves as invisible, generic, or anonymous, they cannot love their jobs no matter what they are doing (even if they are well compensated or love the nature of their work).
If you ask most employees whether their managers understand them and are genuinely interested in them as human beings, most will say no, and this should not be.
So, let me ask you a couple of questions. Do you know your direct reports? If you don’t know their hopes, dreams, and fears, both professionally and personally, then you don’t know them. If you don’t know anything about their backgrounds and families, then you don’t know them. If you can’t articulate their unique contributions to the organization and the challenges they face, then you don’t know them.
So, take some time to get to know your direct reports. Take an interest in the people around you and encourage others to do the same.
Reason # 2: You haven’t helped them connect their work to a larger purpose
Your employees need to know that their jobs matter to someone. Irrelevance is a job killer—a joy killer.
Employees need to understand how their work connects to the satisfaction of another person or group. Without this connection, they cannot find lasting fulfillment.
Do your employees know they are making a difference, and with whom? Be sure to check in with your employees and work with them to make these connections. Please spend some time with them and help them create a clear picture of how their work matters.
Then, make sure that they have the resources they need to make a difference and that they have the opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect their work.
Reason # 3: You haven’t helped them develop a way to assess their progress
Your employees need a way to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. Immeasurement is a job killer—a joy killer.
Employees cannot be fulfilled in their work if the only way for them to gauge their progress is through the opinions of others, including you.
Without a means of assessing their success or failure for themselves, your employees’ motivation will deteriorate because they will begin to feel that they are unable to control their fate.
So, spend some time with your employees and help them think through what they might use as an indicator of their progress—to hold themselves accountable. Don’t overthink this one. It is not about hard metrics and should be more qualitative.
Many of you find yourselves having to do more with less. Many of you are in leadership positions, and you are beginning to realize that you have yet to tap into your most valuable resources—your people.
Your employees want a deep sense of meaning. They deserve to find fulfillment and joy in their work. As such, their engagement levels should demand more of your attention. I suggest starting with the three job and joy killers outlined above.
Travis Bland is the Associate Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration and an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Administration. He studies, consults, and offers workshops on organizational health, strategic planning and execution, and the management of people. To learn more, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on LinkedIn.
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 Lencioni, P. M. (2015). The truth about employee engagement: A fable about addressing the three root causes of job misery. John Wiley & Sons.