Many of us are familiar with the phrase "let's deal with the elephant in the room" The elephant is symbolic of addressing things that are wrong, conflict, trust issues etc. We all know that once this phrase has been uttered the dynamics of any situation are about to change. Skilled facilitators know (especially if they did not initiate the comment) to immediately shift their style to manage what may or may not occur next.

In this column, I'd like to deal with the "Elephant in the Room” more specifically the "White Elephant". As a point of reference for this discussion, I am using the following definition: A white elephant is an idiom for a valuable but burdensome possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth.

What is our White Elephant?  Our jobs, careers or our business endeavors. According to the recent Gallup Q12 engagement survey, 71% of the workforce is either underperforming or actively undermining their work. In other words they are disengaged i.e. functional but distant; or actively disengaged i.e. retired on duty. This number is staggering. If indeed America's workforce has checked out what is the future for businesses in our country. I am certain that I am not the only person that views this as a major concern. Organizations of all sizes are looking for the recipe to employee engagement.

There are a number of reasons that you may be disengaged. It may relate to the impact of the financial crisis over the past few years, or the constant reorganization, restructuring, or right sizing requiring employees to do more for less. It may relate to a sense of loss or mistrust from losing a job or watching friends or co-workers lose their jobs and having to operate as a survivor for the moment; uncertain if you will be next. Our disengagement may be a result of the inability of our congressional leaders to set a national budget requiring the country to operate on a continual resolution for an indefinite period of time or the perceived erosion of employee benefits which manifest as employers not being loyal or caring for its workforce.

Regardless of the reason for your disengagement, it is the white elephant in the room. If not addressed, it will hold you back from reaching a true productive state. According to the statistics above, our jobs have become a burden too costly to abandon and not so easy to trade. As a result we do what is necessary to maintain with the hope that another opportunity will appear.

An alternative to the above phenomenon - is to celebrate your white elephant and get engaged. The holiday season is an excellent time to reconnect with your organization, your career goals, manage work/life integration and reenergize.

A few suggestions to reconnect with your employer and recharge your interest during this holiday are:

1) Participant in your company's charitable activities - whether it be a food drive, toys for tots, or volunteering at a children's hospital.
2) Attend holiday gatherings - and if family members are invited bring them along
3) Review your job description - if the duties are not aligned with what you are currently doing - revise it and share it with your supervisor.
4) Offer to teach, train or mentor another employee
5) Attend to your holiday shopping or other activities BEFORE the work day. Many shopping centers have extended early hours throughout the season.

Annually my husband and I host a holiday gathering. We close each party with a White Elephant Gift Exchange for anyone attending that would like to participate. The gift exchange is very spirited (we actually have a person designated to facilitate the exchange) and allows us to recognize the value our white elephant may have to someone else. I especially appreciate the espirit de corps that develops amongst our guest. Teams form quickly, friendly rivalries emerge and friendships are born. Out of nowhere all of our guest become strategist! In the end we all leave with a smile, an item that we value or will learn to value and a light spirit of an evening well spent.

I close this article wishing you Happy Holidays and a joyous journey in celebrating your "white elephant by getting engaged".


Daphne Latimore
DB Latimore Professional Services Group, LLC