As you probably read, Gallup reported that 70% of employees are disengaged (that’s 70 million people in the U.S. alone). But just because these workers are disengaged doesn’t mean that the remaining 30% who are engaged are also happy. According to Maren Hogan, assuming that employee engagement equals employee happiness is lazy thinking.
While a happy employee might be less likely to leave and contributes to positive work culture, they don’t necessarily believe in your mission. On the other hand, engaged employees are passionate about your vision and they will continue to work for you even if better opportunities come along. They are also so involved in their jobs that a lack of progress frustrates them (which means they’ll work their butt off the next time around).
Don’t confuse your happy employees with your engaged employees.
The Comparison: Jim (happy employee) versus Scott (engaged employee)
You might think that Jim is engaged because he does everything you tell him to do and he doesn’t question the status quo. That report that’s been the same for years? Jim does it, and has no interest in improving it, or ditching it, if it’s not required. He’s just a happy little employee.
Scott, on the other hand, scares you a bit.
He proposes insane ideas, and hates it when projects stall. He always contributes to discussions and cares about the betterment of everything he comes into contact with. As opposed to Jim, he doesn’t have time for happiness, as he’s too busy getting dirty doing work that matters. He’s your engaged employee.
Stepping back, it might be a bit overwhelming to think that you want your team to be full of people like Scott, but you do. His lack of patience with the status quo is what you need to keep customers satisfied, to keep your products and services innovative, and to keep your bottom line in the black.
Now that you know which employees are happy and which are engaged, we recommend appreciating Jim and all your happy team members, but we also believe you should reward Scott and others like him. If you want to start ruffling feathers and improving your organization, tell everyone that you expect them to ask questions, to disrupt, and to be change makers. This will reinforce Scott’s behavior and will motivate other happy employees who’ve been too scared to share ideas to do so. You might also be surprised and find Jim coming forward with a product solution that no one has thought of before. This is exactly what you want to happen. After all, the best combination is a happy engaged worker.