Employee Engagement Is Not Happiness
This blog post from Ed Muzio talks of a trap for employers when it comes to employee engagement. He had me worried for a while with his talk of happiness, as if employee engagement and employee happiness were interchangeable terms. But then he got on track (by which I mean, he stated a line of thinking with which I agree) and his key point was that the trap employers fall into is thinking that employee engagement is their responsibility to generate and maintain.
Let’s leave the whole ‘happiness’ thing out of it. Engagement is not happiness. Radiantly joyful workers can be costly and unproductive. They can be efficient and productive. Dour workers can be either-or too. Engagement does not equal happiness. Engagement is the choice by employees to apply discretionary effort. They choose to do more than they HAVE TO. Why? Less to do with happiness than it is with the fundamental human needs for mastery, autonomy and purpose. I love Dan Pink’s book ‘Drive’ on this.
But I like the blogger’s key point. It isn’t the employer’s responsibility. You, me or anyone else cannot truly motivate anyone else. Genuine, long-term behaviour-changing motivation must be internal. I suppose you can put a gun to someone’s head or threaten their children and that will ‘motivate’ them to do what you want. Yup. Effective – in the short-term – but relationship-damaging and expensive, plus you and your gun would always have to be around. The same goes for any so-called incentifying carrots and sticks. The best an employer can do (and should do) is create and maintain an engagement-supportive workplace. THAT’S the responsibility of employers. Individual engagement is up to individuals.
You can’t force, even in a seemingly unforceful and caring way, others to be engaged. It’s up to them. It’s like donating blood. Donating blood is a noble and unselfish act (assuming it’s your own blood….)