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'I tend to complain, put the blame on others, have a cynical attitude."

"My mind wanders during the workday; I have trouble focusing and delivering on projects and responsibilities."

"I don't have a plan as to what my next steps are."

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"I am dissatisfied with my work situation, and I haven't done anything concrete to resolve it."

"I jump from job to job, assignment to assignment, without really settling in or making a difference."

Recognize yourself? These are all clear signs of disengagement, according to Ian Christie, a Vancouver-based career coach and human resources consultant.

And if you agree with any or all of the statements in Mr. Christie's checklist, you are not alone. "It's extremely common," Mr. Christie said in an interview this week.

So what can you do about disengagement?

The first step is to analyze the situation: Is it the job or is it you?

"Certainly a cause of disengagement could be bad times -- layoffs, continuous re-organization, uncertainty about what your job really is, who you report to, where you fit, workload problems," Mr. Christie said.

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"But then you also have to ask the question of yourself: What about your last job and the job before that? Every two years, do you end up like this?

"A lot of people do. It's boredom, it's some pattern they get into . . . and it's somebody else's fault. My boss hates me, the company promised me a promotion and I didn't get it, I have got too much to do and I'm not getting paid enough, yada, yada. And a lot of that can be true."

Whatever the reason for the disengagement, Mr. Christie said, the sad reality is this: If you don't take steps yourself to try to fix the situation, "no one else is going to do anything about it."

Not that employers are off the hook. "It's good business for companies to involve themselves in this conversation," he said, but employers are not mind-readers.

The Conference Board of Canada said in a report last week that there is no single measure for employee engagement. "Engagement is a function of an employee's state of mind and sense of connectedness to, and involvement in, the organization and in his or her job," the Conference Board said in its report, Measuring What Matters: People Drive Value.

With the help of a working group of major Canadian employers, the Conference Board has identified six key determinants that collectively influence or predict engagement, Ruth Wright, a senior research associate with the Conference Board, said in an interview this week.

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Employee questionnaires, to be tested at participating organizations this fall, will measure the following:

Perceptions of organizational support -- the amount of concern, sharing, help and assistance that an organization provides to employees and "your sense of the extent to which the organization values you and your contribution," Ms. Wright said.

Perceptions of supervisor support -- the critical role of the manager and the relationship he or she develops with employees. His or her ability to listen, to respond flexibly to individual needs, and to coach and develop staff directly influences individual and team performance.

Perceptions of justice and fairness -- including perceived fairness of how rewards are distributed, as well as the procedures in place to make those determinations. "That's pretty basic, but often overlooked by employers," Ms. Wright said.

Job and organizational fit -- people perform at high capacity in roles that they are suited to, and they are energized when their views and values align with those of the organization.

Rewards in the broadest sense -- including recognition, opportunities for development and advancement.

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Job characteristics -- the extent to which the work itself is interesting, challenging, intrinsically rewarding and motivating.

In the meantime, there are steps you can take yourself to "get your head in the game," Mr. Christie said. If you can't change your job, change your attitude. "A reality check can do wonders in changing behaviour," he said.

"Throw yourself into your work, do your best, go deep, immerse yourself and see what happens. Stop hanging out at the water cooler complaining . . . Focus on how you can be successful in the current environment."

If the disengagement is more profound, the next level of action would be to initiate a change, "whether it is getting an internal transfer or some kind of formal, structural thing, such as changing jobs . . . doing the same thing for another company," he said.

"The third level would be drastic change, large-scale career change. For example, you are in sales and [if]after 15 years of company after company after company, you are just not being successful, your health is bad, maybe you are in the wrong field."

Everyone has off days, he said. However, you should be concerned if you are habitually disengaged.

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"When you aren't fully engaged, your efforts are scattered," he said.

"You don't do your best, which hurts you, your employer, your colleagues and your clients. Your personal life suffers. You're not using your talents to your fullest. You are wasting your time and are unproductive. You aren't making a difference," he said.

"In short, you are sabotaging your career."

vgalt@globeandmail.ca

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