On Employee Engagement: Life's a Bucket | Inquirer Business
Ask Your Career Counselor

On Employee Engagement: Life’s a Bucket

/ 03:31 AM February 21, 2016

TOM RATH, a Global Practice Leader at Gallup, theorized that each person has an invisible bucket. It is being constantly filled or emptied, depending on what others say or do to us, and vice versa. A full bucket makes you feel great. An empty bucket makes you feel awful. To live a happy, rewarding life, make your bucket always full. Better yet, make it “runneth over.”

Engagement and buckets


Praise and recognition help fill buckets. Negativity drains buckets.

A global study of 4,000 employees revealed that praise and recognition tend to increase individual productivity and engagement. Employees with full buckets have higher retention rates, have better safety and attendance records, and receive more customer commendations.


Survey data also revealed that the major reason people leave their jobs is they don’t feel appreciated. Bad bosses tend to increase the risk of heart attack or stroke among employees by 33 percent. In the United States, where an estimated 22 million employees are “actively disengaged,” the cost of disengagement is $250 – $300 billion annually.

Positive emotions

Our buckets get filled with positive emotions, and drained by negative emotions. Nine out of 10 people say that they are more productive around positive people. Unfortunately, millions of working people grew up in a negative culture. It is easier to tell people their mistakes. Few try to look for the good in people. Perhaps, it is unintentional, but we live around utter negativity.

You’ve probably never been called to the principal’s office because of your high grades, but always had an audience with the principal whenever you got involved in a quarrel with your classmates or had several failing grades.

A 1925 study by Dr. Elizabeth Hurlock of fourth- and sixth-grade pupils in math revealed amazing conclusions. These pupils were praised, criticized, or ignored due to their grades. Massive improvements (71%) were seen among those praised. Only 19% improvement was noticed among those criticized, and 5% among those ignored.

At the workplace, it is important to help ensure that employees have more positive emotions than negative ones. In a typical waking day, an average employee can have as many as 20,000 personal interactions. To help ensure a full bucket, positive interactions must outnumber negative interactions ten to one. Negative emotions lead to serious problems. Stress, anger, and hostility have damaging results on the mind and body.

A study of 839 Mayo Clinic patients over a 30-year period revealed a correlation between optimism or positive attitude and lower risk of early death. Another study of 180 Catholic nuns showed that nuns with positive emotions lived significantly longer than those with negative emotions.


Fill your bucket

Several other studies revealed that positive emotions significantly enhance people’s longevity. I have octogenarian friends in PMAP, ECOP, AMCHAM, etc. whose optimism and positivity helped them outlive their grumpy counterparts. Here are their secrets for a full bucket and happy life. Tom Rath also recommends these.

“Don’t make your bucket drip. Whenever you interact with others, catch yourself before you say anything that you’ll be sorry for later. Everyday, reflect on what you did. If you realize you unduly hurt another person, apologize right away. Avoid persons who make your bucket drip. Keep away from nasty situations that can empty your bucket.

“Always look for the good and the positive. Always look for what is good, pleasing and right in other people. Praise right away. Fill somebody else’s bucket. When you make somebody happy, it’s good for your soul, too. If you see something wrong, help others correct themselves in a way that they don’t lose self-respect.

“Be nice and friendly. With strangers or people you know, be friendly always. Smile – it’s contagious. Don’t make fun of others. Laughter at the expense of others creates negativism.

” Be generous. Life’s too short. You can’t bring your wealth to the grave. If you give to others, you fill up their buckets, and yours. Do a good turn daily. The more you give, the more you’re blessed. When your right hand gives, don’t let the left hand know. Give spontaneously, especially when others don’t expect it.

“Do unto others … Vary the golden rule, according to Rath. Instead of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, “do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” If you’re not sure what others want, simply ask. You’ll easily satisfy your boss or customers if you ask them what they want and do it according to their specifications.

C’est la vie!

Ernie Cecilia is the 2013 executive director and 1999 president of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP); Chair of the AMCHAM Human Capital Committee; and Co-Chair of ECOP’s TWG on Labor and Social Policy Issues. He also chairs the Accreditation Council for the PMAP Society of Fellows in People Management. He is president and CEO of EC Business Solutions and Career Center. Contact him at [email protected])

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Curated business news

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2022 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.