Emotional Engagement isn’t Rationale

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jul 02

How management treats tough times with employees is revealing. How do you deliver bad news in bad times? How do you take tough actions and still help employees understand the situation? How do you keep employees engaged in the middle of tough times?

The Situation

My favorite Irish blogger, Krishna De, describes this situation with one of her clients in “Employee Engagement Through a Recession:”

…he had been called into a meeting with his senior executive team who outlined that as their operating unit is under performing, that everyone would be rated as under performing this year in the year end appraisal.

My client had delivered great performance within his own team and function, but the overall collective performance of the business unit was way off mark and had not met the annual plan.

His immediate reaction was to leave the organisation as he felt that his personal contribution was not being recognised and even worse in his eyes was being rated as under performing which in the context of this organisation was to say farewell to any chance of job moves in the future.

When he had reflected on the message from the executive team and he thought about what he would do if this were his business, he completely understood the decision and why is was being made at a rational level. However his emotional connectiveness to the employer brand was severely impacted. (emphasis mine, Scot)

The reaction by management to tough times in this situation completely devalues and demoralizes employees. In tough times, engaged employees will work harder, smarter, and deliver better results to minimize bad situations. Yet, their reward at the end of the day is “we didn’t make it and you won’t either in spite of your performance.” And you get management rating everyone as under performing (along with no pay increase or bonus to boot).

Even though you can rationally justify the actions, the emotional impact is still the same: “I worked my tail off for you and the company and you kicked me in the gut by telling me I underperformed.”

The Truth

Here’s the truth: we can only be engaged in a job when we are emotionally engaged in a job.

The best performers in any organizations will be those that are emotionally connected with the work that they are doing. After all, what’s passion good for if it isn’t emotionally connecting with the work?

For managers and companies to not deal with the emotional aspects of work leave employees rationally understanding the situations they are put in. And they work like they are rationally, not emotionally, engaged.

If I got the news this person did in this situation, I’d have left the organization. Maybe not today, but soon. If management can’t recognize good work in the middle of tough times or address the emotional aspects of employee engagement in tough times, it’s not good management. Soon I’d be left with nothing more than rational engagement in the work.

Does your management team work through the emotional aspects of tough times in your work?

  • Krishna De says:

    Scot – oh I am blushing – being your favourite Irish blogger!

    Thank you so much for referencing the post.

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