We have an engagement problem at work. It is well known. The last workplace environment survey (WES) results demonstrated our division had sunk to the lowest scoring work unit in the entirety of the Ministry. At one time, it had one of the highest scores. The impact is acutely felt. As such, I had some hope when the Deputy Minister put out a call for expressions of interest to co-chair an employee engagement forum, there was just one catch: subject to supervisor approval.
I am not a person who believes that any problem can be solved by denying that it exists in the first place. Further, my door has been open and I have had an open ear to my colleagues. I have also written a book review in our divisional newsletter on a book that seems 'on-track' for solving these kinds of problems (Dan Pontefract's Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization). I have given voice to the concerns I have heard at meetings. I have also undertaken a project that resulted in art being hung in the halls - halls that had been barren for a decade. I want work to be a better place, I truly do - so I figured I should throw my hat in the ring.
As such I was greatly disappointed when my supervisor came into my office on Friday to tell me that she was withholding approval of my application to Co-chair the forum. Not so much because she wanted to, but rather because the Executive Director felt there might be workload issues, and more tellingly that "I may express negative opinions with respect to the situation in our division". I wish I could say that it was completely unexpected, but it really wasn't as the executive director has demonstrated that she is far more concerned with how things look, than with how things are. Yet another indication of where the culture of my workplace is at - and how unlikely it is to change anytime soon.
This is the painful part - the part where the relationship has been long-dead, the part where whatever bits I once loved have long since withered, the part where it is clear there is not going to be some miraculous turn around. This is the part where I have to take into account my strengths and the work I could be doing instead. This is the part where I must dig deep - think hard, and hope that in 25 years I will look back and know I made the right choices even though they were hard and uncomfortable and risky.