Here’s the biggest employee engagement downfall in corporate life today: “Don’t take it personally, it’s business.” Like if you lay me off from a job, I’m supposed to think it isn’t personal, just business. Except that when you lay me off, it totally upends my life and completely changes what actions I need to take in order to care for myself and my family.
Business is personal. Business is social. To take away the employee engagement that comes from taking your work personally takes away the satisfaction that comes from the work. When we take away the personal, the engagement that comes from work, we are left with empty actions, treating projects and people as though they are mere objects in a broad playing field. We do the work not because the work is engaging, satisfying and personal, but because it is a paycheck.
There are big implications to objectifying the workplace.
When we’re engaged in the work, we focus on what is best for doing our work and advocate for what we think is best for the business. We’re owners, wanting to do the best to support both our customers and ourselves. When we lose the employee engagement, we shrug our shoulders, don’t attempt to make whatever better and just do our job. We look at other people and start attacking them instead of the policy. Or people start attacking us instead of the policy.
We call it office politics and it is even worse as each of us try to stay afloat in a recession, keeping a job to have a job and working to protect ourselves. We put up the shield of non-emotion, discount our passion, and replace personal engagement with simply doing the work.
When everything is “business, not personal,” we start gaming the systems. We tweak our numbers to make them look better, we strategize how to make the outcome the way we want it, rather than figuring out what is best for the department and the business. We care less about the customer as they simply become another factor in winning the game. Good business ethics become corrupt business ethics. Instead of engaging in the work, we engage in the game. Halo never had it so good.
When management and the corporate experience drives people to ignore the personal in business, to mute the engagement in the work, people replace their passion with an emptiness that simply does the job. Takes the direction. Tries to figure out how to stay protected in the job. After all, it’s just a paycheck.
That’s if they stay. The great employees, looking for the very best corporate experience, take about two looks at the environment and decide it is time to change. Which, by the way, substantially disengages them from their current job while they look for someplace that will make a difference.
Employee engagement is not easy. Changing a corporate culture is not easy. When you run the “it’s just business, not personal” line, you change the corporate culture. Would you rather manage people who are engaged in the work, or manage people who have a passionate emptiness in what they do?
After all, it’s just business. Not personal.