Getting Past Re-Engagement
Nearly three out of four Americans say that they’re bored at work.* They feel that their knowledge, skills and abilities aren’t being used, and that their companies don’t care.
To give you an idea of the size of the problem, imagine that instead of boredom, they were all too sick to even show up. The streets would be deserted. There would be no traffic jams, because there’d be no traffic. It gets worse.
Eighty-three percent say that they are stressed!** That means that most employees are both burned out and bored.
How about your organization? Have your people lost the plot? Are they in a rut? Are they dis-engaged?
What is employee engagement? That’s a good question. Just like dividing by zero, engagement is undefined. In one study alone, more than 50 definitions were recorded.***
In theory, engagement sounds like a period of time during which employees and their organizations get to know one another better, and then a bit later form a more permanent bond.
In that scenario, re-engagement suggests that for one reason or another, the parties became estranged, and the engagement was broken off. But, both have now seen the error of their ways. The differences have been reconciled, and they’ve decided to “make up.”
In practice, it’s an entirely different affair.
Engagement is more like a step you’d see in a square dance where one dancer skips towards another, locks arms, swings a half turn, and then departs in a separate direction.
Re-engagement occurs when you re-connect with the one you locked arms with at the beginning.
But, since there’s no agreement on how to define engagement, the idea of re-engagement is even more mysterious. After all, how can you redo something if you don’t know what it is you did?
What’s even more interesting is that the momentum for re-engagement is one-sided. The term itself tells us that: Employee engagement. The assumption is that the employees decided to leave the relationship, and now they need to be re-engaged.
But, what if the opposite was true? What if employees were the ones that were left at the altar?
Let’s consider what re-engagement would look like if leaders and managers were the ones who were dis-engaged.
To restore the relationship, they would have to:
- Put people at the center of their organizations and the interests of the employees ahead of their own
- Be emotionally committed to the success of employees, as well as to their organizations. That means there would be no multi-million dollar pay-offs if they were forced to leave their jobs for under-performance
- Show some humility by accepting the blame when they were wrong, and giving credit where credit was due, instead of the other way around, as is too often the case
- Find fulfillment and job satisfaction from collaborating and cooperating, rather than competing with their peers
- Recognize that whatever they thought was true of other employees, was equally true of them. For example, if employees were among the human resources of the company and, as such, were a balance sheet cost, so were they
Engagement and re-engagement needs to be understood as a joint problem.
Employees may have become disenchanted with their organization, but probably not before their organizations stopped wooing them.
Many leaders and managers engage in these on-again, off-again relationships according to their own personal aims.
Just like a glad-rag doll, the relationships never were, nor were they ever intended, to be anything other than temporary.
Perhaps this is why employees appear to be disengaged.
And perhaps, too, it is why, from where they’re sitting anyway, re-engagement looks even less like a commitment.
They’ve seen it all before. It takes two to tango.
Leaders and managers need to get past this shallow idea of re-engagement and make the relationship a lasting one.
*Bored In The Office: Is It The New Productivity Killer? (Forbes.com, 2012)
**2013 Work Stress Survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College
***Engaging for Success: enhancing performance through employee engagement (David MacLeod, Nita Clarke, 2012)