10 Ways to Kill Employee Engagement

August 17, 2010

Engaged employees place a premium on their own performance and have a strong connection to the business. They are the ones who go the extra mile for you. They’re involved, recommending new ways of doing things, challenging the status quo and in general making your organization a better organization.

In contrast, disengaged employees put in their time and go through the motions – costing you all the while they are still employed. And the cost is high. A 2007-2008 Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study indicates that disengaged employees translates to an estimated $300 billion loss in productivity in the United States alone.

Unfortunately, as a leader it’s all too easy to kill engagement. Here’s my tongue-in-cheek list of ways to kill engagement:
    1.     Don’t involve people in shaping change. Organizations today are in a constant state of change, adapting to global economic and competitive pressures. You need to move fast, and you’re the leader and you know better – so shape the change yourself and mandate it to your employees. Then expect them to “own it.”
    2.       Be vague. You’re a busy leader who needs to have the “vision.” You don’t have time for details, that’s why you’re on top. Keep the direction of the organization very general, allowing others to interpret and infer what you meant as that vision relates to their work. To really challenge your organization, set apparently contradictory objectives but provide zero guidance on how to resolve the contradiction. People love a challenge.
    3.       Don’t engage in any time-wasting conversations. Once you’ve called the shot, there’s no need to provide your staff with any context. Why should you have to beg your staff to get on board?  After all, you’re paying them.  You “get it” – and they should too.  Let them connect the dots between your objectives and their work; after all, they’re professionals, right?
    4.       Pile on additional activities. Change your organization by initiating a bunch of new activities without stopping any current activities.  Overwhelm people with change and see who rises to the top.
    5.       Indict the past. Let people know that what was acceptable in the past is clearly the wrong way to operate and an indicator of poor performance.
    6.       Deliver change in pieces. Keep people focused and productive by delivering change in small chunks. Don’t confuse them by letting them see the big picture. People love puzzles, and they’ll stay attentive to your business by spending their time trying to work out the grand plan that only you or a select few understand.
    7.       Focus on the numbers. Concentrate your full attention on financial results and always talk about the numbers while keeping as distant as possible from your staff. This will keep everyone feeling insecure at all times so that they have that special edge that drives performance. To reinforce the non-caring, financially-oriented feeling, refer to people as “assets” or “resources” – or even better, “FTEs” – but never as "people."
    8.       Don’t waste valuable time and money on training. Today’s economic climate has created the perfect condition for saving corporate dollars: people are paranoid about keeping their jobs. There’s no need to allocate time and corporate funding for training; after all, there are plenty of options available to employees to keep up on their own time and dime. You simply need to keep them focused and working on corporate projects that will drive revenue and make you look good.
    9.       Keep things formal and hierarchal. Make sure that there is a formal chain of command and that there are definitive boundaries related to job titles and job classifications. A good, hierarchal, formal structure will filter out a great deal of “noise.” You won’t have to deal with listening to and responding to all of those so-called “good ideas,” let alone contending with those pesky complaints.
    10.   Throw your title around. You’re a leader, someone in a position of authority. Make sure that people know it. You don’t have to expend unnecessary energy demonstrating an interest in other people; as a leader they will suck up to you. Better yet – if you are really good at this – you don’t even need to be competent. People will be too intimidated and frustrated by your arrogant, uncaring attitude to even want to talk to you, let alone challenge you.
That's my list. Can you think of other ways to kill employee engagement?


Noah said...

Ignore Feedback--You know the big picture. If they did, they would understand too. Communicate you care by listening, and then thank them and send them along. They will see in the end.

(Great post!)

December 6, 2010 at 11:36 AM
Dave Moran said...


Great addition! Listening and acting on feedback is critical, and can be a real downer when it doesn't happen. Thanks for reading!

December 11, 2010 at 8:29 AM

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