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Not Engaged at Work? Use these Questions to Move Forward


If you could have more of something in your professional life, what is it? What are the missing ingredients to you feeling more fully engaged with your work?

There’s a pattern to how we feel at the end of our workdays. It wasn’t too long ago when frustration consumed me. In that job, I was missing key ingredients important to me. How I felt impacted my marriage, my kids and my overall well-being. I worked on bringing some of these into my job, but finally determined that I needed to create my own environment. So, I made a change.

The Taking Stock Question

What’s your pattern? Are you in the right place, doing the right work, for you, at this point in your professional journey?

I’ve worded the question with qualifiers:

  • The work: Your job focus, content, tasks, level

  • The place: The structure, environment, culture and people

  • The time: At the current stage of your career and how long you’ve been in this role

If your answer is “hell, yes”, then good for you!

Anything short of this full level of engagement is a gap. A gap in satisfaction, interest, or fulfillment.

So, what’s the gap?

The Core Question: What is Missing? 

If you could have more of something in your professional life, what is it? What are the missing ingredients to you feeling more fully engaged with your work?

The what’s missing question is truly worth examining.

If you’re frequently going home frustrated, angry, or emotionally exhausted, something isn’t working.

If work no longer holds your interest or you feel ready for the next thing and are stuck, action may be required.

Feeling Stuck in Your Current Role

Key Ingredient Types

When thinking of what’s missing, the following categories can help break it down:

  • Values: Those things that are truly important to you. When you’re out of sync with your core values, it will impact you.

  • Success Factors: In my experience, we all have a set of requirements that enable us to be happy doing our best work.

  • Growth: As professionals, we go through cycles of learning, mastery and then boredom. Sometimes professional renewal can be found in your current job. Often, it means a move.

The beauty of the what’s missing question is that it leads you in a positive direction. Rather than wallowing in blame, complaints or relinquishing your personal power to others, you identify what’s important to you.

When you can pinpoint what might be missing, other questions follow

What’s at stake?

  • What’s the personal cost of not having these needs met?

  • Are others suffering because you’re off track?

  • What’s the strategic impact on the trajectory of your career?

Do you have any control?

Often, simply by shining a light on the problem, you have the ability to bring more of what’s missing to your current work. Or you might be able to work with your manager to tweak your work portfolio. However, if it’s outside of your control, then your choice is to stay and accept the status quo or engineer a move.

How long have you been tolerating these missing ingredients?

  • If you’ve been sitting on your hands, why is that?

  • How important is your well-being and feeling engaged and on track with your career?

What’s your sense of professional agency?

  • How prepared and confident are you to do something about closing the gap? While the what’s missing question isn’t the full answer, it does shine a light on where you are professionally, creating the potential for re-engagement with your current work, or a proactive and empowered approach to making a change.

  • What’s missing in your professional life?

  • Was there a point in your career where you identified a pain point that caused you to make changes?

Take it from me. Both from my painful personal experience and from the hundreds of clients we've worked with who have faced the same situation.

The most important thing? To take steps and move forward. 

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