Although organizations consistently talk-up employee engagement, we know that only three in ten employees are engaged. That leaves another seven in ten people withholding the best of their energy, ideas, and talent from their employer. This trend persists despite the commonplace knowledge that engaged workers produce more, are happier, and drive profitability skyward.
I think I know one big reason why…
It’s because (some) managers talk like they want a fianceé but act like they are unwilling to be engaged to her! They want, even expect, employees to give their all, but they don’t make a reciprocal investment! Just think about it. What do engaged lovers do and engaged employees do?
An engaged lover expects her partner to reciprocate. When he does, they remain engaged. An engaged employee wants, and needs, the reciprocity from their manager—the person who represents the company to him/her. But when that doesn’t happen, she will “fall-out” of engagement. It’s a perfectly reasonable and healthy response, don’t you think?
Boundaries Keep us Healthy
Healthy people have boundaries—they don’t over-invest in people that don’t give back. In contrast, it’s unhealthy and unreasonable for a manager to expect employees to engage at work without engaging them personally.
Employees give more than they have to when they:
- are connected with other people doing important work,
- are free to use their talents creatively,
- feel appreciated by people who are important to them,
- know that they are making progress, and
- are being challenged to learn and grow.
The Manager’s Job
The most significant relationship an employee has in the workplace is with his manager. Approval and appreciation from the boss is five times more important than from peers. As important as peers are, it’s the boss’s job to:
- connect people using their talents for the same cause,
- communicate genuine & personal appreciation,
- ensure that people make progress and can see it, and
- stretch people beyond themselves.
This all takes time, thought, and energy, which many managers don’t have because they are busy preparing reports, reading emails, and responding to their boss, etc. In other words, managers are often engaged to people and things that take a higher priority than their team members. (We have a name for that in marriage—it’s called cheating.) And if that is the case, who is engaging team members? No one, that’s who.
Is it any wonder that 70% of people are not engaged at work?
Managers Embody Company Culture
To be fair, we can’t “lay all the blame” on managers, because it truly is a culture thing. Managers are the face of the company to the employee, and I speak of them here as representatives of the company. More than anyone, managers do what is expected of them. They fulfill the priorities of their bosses. Their bosses do the same, and on and on. It’s a conspiracy of company culture—the values, beliefs, and habits shared by people in an organization.
But…it’s people who invent, obey, and enforce culture.
And…if we invent culture, then we can reinvent it.
And…if we can reinvent, then someone—a leader—must get it started.
What if, you decided right now to be the fiancé to your fianceé. What if you decided to stop cheating and engage the people on your team? How would you do that?