Tip #684: Engagement or Redirection?

“Engagement may have been optional in the past, but it’s pretty much the whole game today.” Gary Hamel

I recently read about a Forrester Research report on employee engagement (or the lack thereof). It was based on round-table discussions with 40 senior managers from different companies.

The report noted that constant work and communication are two keys to maintaining employee engagement. However, the report also advised employers to “minimize the increased pressure at work.”

I assume that the basis for the recommendation for constant work is the idea that employees who are always busy either are engaged or have no time to become disengaged.

I do wonder at the type of constant work the polled managers had in mind. I’d like to assume that they were thinking of work that is meaningful and makes a difference. (I doubt that my assumption is realistic).

If there is never an end to work, the employee will feel like s/he is climbing a mountain of sand. The minute one task or project (with its particular stressors) is completed, another would start immediately. In a world of constant work, no matter how fulfilling, burnout is a guaranteed result.

The report goes on to state that there is only an unspecified amount of pressure that an employee can take before s/he will become disengaged. This disengagement can take the form of “burnout, cynicism, or heightened criticism.”

How much pressure is too much pressure? What may be just enough pressure to be challenging for one employee may overstress another employee to the point of paralysis. That’s quite a tightrope for managers to walk.

The sentence that really caught my attention was: “Once an employee is truly disengaged, often the best approach is to give that employee a ‘creative career redirection opportunity.’”

At first glance, a career redirection opportunity seems very positive, like something out of What Color Is Your Parachute? One might expect this means that someone in human resources will discuss a stimulating new career with the employee.

Yet if the employee is truly disengaged, this probably means that the best approach is to fire the employee. That would certainly result in an involuntary career redirection opportunity!

A “creative career redirection opportunity” is a brilliant euphemism for employment termination. When faced with unemployment, it would be a much more comfortable explanation to give to family and friends.

What I’m not sure about is the “creative” aspect of this career redirection opportunity. Does this mean that the company will provide job placement services, or does this mean that the employee will now have to be creative to find new employment?

Since this article merely summarized the report, I have a lot of questions. Unfortunately, my attempt to locate the report on the Forrester website has been unsuccessful.

You can read the full summary at <https://www.hermangroup.com/alert/archive_7-12-2017.html>

May your learning be sweet.


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