A Gallup survey reveals that an employee’s level of engagement drops significantly if their leader focuses on the employee’s weaknesses rather than their strengths. But the more surprising finding is the dramatic doubling of disengagement when an employee is ignored. Engagement, the extent to which an employee feels connected to their leader and their workplace, is almost impossible to achieve in the face of neglect.
It appears that in all aspects of life, any attention is better than no attention. Children are expert at ramping up their “attention-seeking behaviours” when they sense you are drifting. It starts with chatter, then questions, then repetition, then silliness, and finally, if nothing else works, naughtiness. That usually gets a response, and even harsh words or punishment are a price they’re prepared to pay to satisfy the need. You’ve finally bestowed upon them the much-sought prize and a connection is made. This connection is crucial for learning, understanding, encouragement, motivation, and the security of belonging. Even if the experience that flows through the open stream of attention is negative, it’s better than receiving nothing at all.
It’s no different for us as adults. When we feel we are not being heard, we tend to dwell on the issue, repeating ourselves and becoming more frustrated when there is a lack of response. In any form of relationship whether it be work, love, or a simple service transaction, when attention is withheld it creates a great sense of emptiness. You feel that you are not important, or that what you have to say does not matter, and the effects are destructive. Neglect triggers a threat response in the brain because it symbolises rejection and a lack of belonging. Belonging is one of the foundation human needs, which is why receiving attention from others is such a precious gift.
The stream of attention is a tangible pathway along which we walk towards each other, and it must be open for connection to be possible. Sometimes attention is intentionally withheld, but more often this act is unintentional. Lost in thought, captured by busy-ness, distracted by the constant stream life’s interruptions, the needs of others right in front of you can be overlooked.
What gets your attention? Are there times you withhold it, even if unintentionally? You may think other things are more important, but take a look around once in a while. Are there opportunities to generate more engagement in your life? See what happens when you intentionally give generously of your attention.
Learn how to harness more of your precious attention in life and in business.