How to be an engaged employee

John Parker
John Parker

Carol wears the company apron with her company bling buttons pinned on it. The pins were too small for me to read. I figure they were there to make Carol proud and happy.

Her name tag acronym reads CSA which probably means “customer service associate.” Such acronyms and pins are for insiders like Carol not for outsiders like the customer. But they weren’t helping Carol either.

I’d returned a couple of things at the customer service desk and noticed Carol then. I thought she was focused and professional. I was wrong.

Now, finishing my shopping, I came up to the checkout area. Who was my clerk? My friend-to-be, Carol!

I got excited to greet her and tell her I’d already seen her over at the desk. I figured that would get a smile from her and we’d have a nice checkout experience.

But my friend-elect didn’t look up, greet or even smile at me. Nothing at all. She clearly was in no mood for checkstand niceties. I covered my disappointment, paid and left feeling a bit sad and concerned.

I pondered her disengaged, distant (in spite of her pins and CSA title) customer service. I still believe my first impression over at the customer service desk was correct. Carol is a good person and historically a great associate But now, instead of working hard at engaging customer service, it had sadly become hard work.

Carol may simply be one of the 50.3 percent that the 2015 Gallup Poll of Employee Engagement calls “disengaged.”  The poll indicated that around 32 percent are “engaged,”  which means they love what they do and look forward to going to work.

Another 16.8 percent are “actively disengaged” and seek to undermine companies and their leaders in various ways.

If we could visit with Carol, she might wistfully acknowledge the good old days when she was fully engaged in customer service. She might have a story to explain the loss, or she may not even know how it happened.

Here are three sound recovery steps for the Carols of customer service: Reset, rest and rejoice.


I haven’t restarted my laptop since I got home this afternoon from a trip. It’s acting weird. I’ll reset it (after I’m done writing this column) by turning it off, letting it rest a bit, then powering it up again.

How do you reset, restart and refresh yourself?  A nap? A good book? A cup of tea? Whatever you do that helps, do more of that.


“The faster I go the ‘behinder’ I get,” goes the old adage. My guess is, Carol is exhausted.

She’s spent years taking care of others, working when she’s not at work, while ignoring her need to get enough rest and quiet. She may say that she can’t rest because she doesn’t have enough time.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” is a version of the Golden Rule. Tragically the anxious, serving Carols of this world disobey that rule.

Their rule is “care for your neighbor more than for yourself.” It feels good, righteous and even Mother Teresa-ish. But I’ll bet even diligent, sacrificial, and famous Mother Teresa took adequate time for quietness, contemplation and reflection to reset, renew and return to her core values. I imagine she would encourage us to do the same and not to allow our souls to become impoverished.

Excellent customer service says “the customer is No. 1.” The question is, who is the customer?

At work the customers, co-workers and bosses as our customers, are No. 1. But sometime before or after work, make sure to set a time aside when you are the customer and you are No. 1

Try this affirmation: “At work the customer is indeed No. 1. But at home, in private, during some time I claim for my own I am No. 1. That’s when I will give myself excellent customer service, providing myself healthy resets and positive renewals.”


Every day name things to rejoice in and to be thankful for such as the new day, air to breathe, ability to think, food, work and even customers. Thanksgiving is a proven game changer.

Be engaged. Let’s settle for nothing less. Let’s live not just exist. Let’s happily serve others but also be sure we give excellent customer service to ourselves as well.

Ready to start? Go!

John Parker is a customer service expert with Professional Development Adventures and an instructor for the UC Davis Center for Human Services. You can reach him at [email protected]



  1. In my earlier years, I worked a lot of fast food. My goal was to make those sandwiches look just like the commercials depicted them – delicious, big, mouth-watering, and overall enjoyable! It all boils down to listening to the customer (being engaged), never have them repeat their order, and keep the bigger picture in mind. In selling auto parts, I did the same, listened and then provided the solution. We need to always give 100%, not more, not less. When we give more, we take away that time from our family, our much needed rest, and our ability to reset. Giving less is just cheating our employer. I reset by picking up my guitar and singing a few songs. Now, I never said I was good at doing either – playing or singing, but it sure feels good. Great article John.


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