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Employee Engagement: Let The Fakery Begin

It's a good thing HR isn't in charge of IT employee retention. Their new "employee engagement" campaign is really "employee enragement."

Grumpy IT Guy

November 26, 2014

3 Min Read

Overheard during an HR "employee engagement" workshop: "Work on human capital so you can ask employees for discretionary effort."
Go away, HR. Come back when the double-talk fit has passed.

Here at BigCorp, bosses are "discovering" that (gasp) if employees hate the company, they don't work as well. Translation of the HR double-talk: "Be nice to people and they'll go the extra mile for you." Now, that was worth the $100,000 consultant, wasn't it?
But hey, it's the "brand new" science of employee engagement. It's social science! We did a survey! What are you, a hater?

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Here is the problem. The thing that causes DIS-engagement is saying stupid stuff like, "Build up human capital so that you can ask workers for discretionary effort," and treating common sense as if it's super-complex science beyond the ken of normal people. The smug doubletalk attitude causes enragement, not engagement.

Many employees here are disenchanted with how the company treats them. They are disenchanted because they feel like a cog in a machine, not like the "most important asset" of the company, despite this HR platitude.

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We are now to follow HR's lead on how to manage or browbeat our employees into engagement nirvana.

Except, management by platitude and mandatory meetings is rarely successful. And a manager's actions speak louder than words. If I exhorted my IT team to "be engaged" at the same time as (for example) micro-managing them, I doubt it would do any good.

How about: Stop acting like you're smarter than your employees. Treat them like human beings. Stop managing by platitude.

It is uncomfortable to disagree with HR. Generally, at BigCorp IT, we do not talk about the HR buzzwords-of-the-day because we don't want to demoralize our employees. Is this us being "disengaged?"


Two things:

  1. If you want people to be engaged, be engaging. Don't tell people to be engaged and then be shocked when they are not.

  2. "Engagement" is voluntary. In other words, if it's about our "discretionary effort" as leaders, quit shoving it down our throats. Stop wasting our time. Quit forcing us to spend six hours of offsite "training" on how to make employees enraged... er, engaged.

A message for BigCorp bosses everywhere: you want engagement? You want employees to stop rolling their eyes when you talk? You want voluntary extra effort? Stop treating us like kindergartners and start trusting us. Start being straight with us. Stop telling us part of the story. Start giving us details without super-careful press-release type language. Stop the complicated consultant-speak. Start talking in language that shows that you're not trying to impress anybody.

Most of all, if you want us to feel like we are the most important asset of the company, show us. Don't tell us.

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About the Author(s)

Grumpy IT Guy

IT Guy

Grumpy IT Guy avoided historic disasters and clueless people while working his way up the IT ranks, but he retained his keen sense of humor. He now leads an IT organization somewhere in America, as part of the FBI's Grump Protection Program. Need advice? Send questions to [email protected], or on Twitter: @IWGrumpyITGuy. You may not get the answer you want, but it's probably the answer you need.

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