Transcending Problems and Workplace Disengagement

The power of Appreciative Inquiry.

Posted Jul 27, 2018

 By Janus Y janus unsplashcom photos.30fTBWZv-2c [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Source: By Janus Y janus unsplashcom photos.30fTBWZv-2c [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

A recent Gallup study found that 85 percent of the global workforce is disengaged, which undermines morale and productivity (see Harter, 2017). Some companies offer band aid solutions—lunchtime stress management workshops or 10-minute chair massages. But there is a better way—Appreciative Inquiry (AI), a transformational approach to organizational change based on “what gives life to human systems when they function at their best” (Whitney & Trosten-Bloom, 2003, page 1). When AI consultants come into a company, they ask people to begin the change process by looking beyond their problems, recalling times when they were functioning at their best. Transcending top-down management structures, AI includes all employees in the process, building greater resourcefulness and raising morale.

AI goes on to appreciate the positive and create the possible in a 4-step cycle:

  1. Discovery: Appreciate what is good about the organization, identify the best of what is and has been. This is their “positive core.”
  2. Dream: Then, building on this core, imagine what they could create together.
  3. Design: Formulate a clear, compelling picture of what they can become.
  4. Destiny: Create a more positive future with action steps to implement their design, combining their strengths, continuing to learn from the process. (Whitney & Trosten-Bloom, 2003, pages 6-10)

These 4 D’s can transform problems into possibilities not only in corporate settings but in our relationships with ourselves and one another. Gloria DeGaetano’s Parent Coaching Institute uses AI to help parents connect with their children on a deeper level, leading to healthier, more holistic parenting and families that flourish.

What about you? If you’ve been dwelling on a chronic problem at home or work, you could try AI for yourself:

  1. Discovery: Shift your attention. Stop focusing on your problem and think of what your life feels like when you are at your best. Reconnect with your “positive core” to inspire and energize you.
  2. Dream: Imagine what your life could be like when you project your positive core into the future. How would you like things to be?
  3. Design: Formulate a clear and compelling picture of what this positive future would look like.
  4. Destiny: Create a plan to take you into that future, one small step at a time. Then take a cue from research in hope theory: think of a back-up plan for each step, to use if that step does not work out (Feldman & Dreher, 2012). Remember to stay connected with the energy of your positive core as you keep learning from the process.


DeGaetano, G. Information about the Parent Coaching Institute approach on

Feldman, D. B. and Dreher, D. E. (2012). Can hope be changed in 90 minutes? Testing the efficacy of a single-session goal-pursuit intervention for college students.  Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 745-759, DOI: 10.1007/s10902-011-9292-4.

Harter, J. (2017, December 20). Dismal Employee Engagement is a Sign of Global Mismanagement. Gallup Blog.

Whitney, D. &Trosten-Bloom, A. (2003). The Power of Appreciative Inquiry. San Francisco,CA: Berrett-Koehler.