Employee Engagement Trumped by Management

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jun 11

The latest buzzwords around productive employees used by management: employee engagement.

How companies can more effectively engage the employee, why employee engagement is necessary for a productive company, and how employee engagement works are all discussed in the blogosphere.

I’ve looked at about fifty of these types of articles on why employee engagement is necessary and how to go about it.

They all fail the key component of an employee’s willingness to be engaged in the job: trust of management.

I don’t know about you, but I do my best work when I’m engaged in what I am doing. But management actions speak a lot louder than words when it comes to trusting an employee’s judgment. How willing are you to engage in the job you do when companies engage in the following practices:

  • Layoffs. For my two cents, the end result of management’s mismanagement is laying off people to get costs back in line. The threat of layoffs forces the smartest, most productive employees to continually evaluate their work against the probability of not having job when they come to work the next day.
  • Management by fear. How engaged would you be in your work if you walked into your manager’s office and were told — after five years of above average reviews under different management — that your work needed to fix what was broken “or I’ll find someone else who can?” I know that surely engages me in the right way to do my job.
  • Not listening to your business judgment. You are running a department and have done so successfully for years. Yet now your new management takes back all control of decisions for your area. The funnel of decision making now becomes blocked at one or two managers who now want to control everything. Makes me want to make decisions on my own.
  • Decline giving resources to do the work. Management comes in and won’t replace people who have left the business even though you are under budget and under headcount. Consequently, you or your people need to do more work to stay above the workload water line. I’m incented to work harder.
  • Management gives you no way to win. One day managers tell you one direction and the next turn 180 degrees the other direction turning all of your work in one direction to wasted time and effort.
  • Dumps more workload on you. Something is broken and, even though it is not your area, you are required to work extra hours, nights, weekends, and holidays to get something done — with no measurable reason or results.

Note that the work prior was all considered successful. And now a new management team comes in and tells you all that you have considered successful is not. What you have done might not now be what is needed to run the business.

But understanding of your work and teaching what now needs to be done is a skill that isn’t often used in these situations. Instead, it’s management by fiat. You will do what is told to you or you will be gone. In case you are wondering, that type of management makes me gone.

All of these things have happened to me in my long career. It’s not fun. It doesn’t make me want to engage in the work that I’m doing. That’s what’s missing from employee engagement articles — what a company does about engaging employees in their work speaks volumes more about engagement than the next five-point plan to engage employees in their work.

Instead, these articles should be asking this: Where’s the trust?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.