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Employee Engagement Requires More Than Caring Bosses

boss hugThis blog post makes a clear demarcation between the behavior of bosses that can enhance employee engagement and the lazy assumption that it must all be about being nice and friendly and a soft touch.

I’m seemingly forever clarifying to people that employee engagement is not synonymous with employee happiness or morale or satisfaction. They’re all nice things. They’re all interesting. We’d all probably like to work in a job where there are higher levels of happiness, satisfaction and morale. BUT employee engagement is a very narrowly defined phenomena – the application of discretionary effort. It isn’t about how workers feel or think or think they feel. It is about how we observe they behave. To what extent do they do more than they have to because they choose to – for whatever reasons? It’s not about evil, moustache-twirling villainous bosses extracting everything they can and more out of labour. It is about people’s fundamental human, psychological needs and how they are served (or not) in their work.

Our jobs need to be about more than a paycheck. We take a job for the money but how we perform once we’re hired is less about money than managerial wisdom has thought for years.

And it isn’t about bosses being ‘nice’ or a soft touch. I can get my own hugs thank you very much. A boss who, on the surface, may seem ‘un-nice’ or uncaring might actually be driving high levels of engagement in the people they lead. Regardless of their cliche and superficial people skills, if they can stimulate a sense of purpose in their people, backed up with allowing some degree of autonomy and provide a track for development and progression, then that goes a long way to enhancing engagement levels and the benefits that ensue for productivity and profitability.

But if you still want hugs – get a dog. A big one. I recommend a huntaway. Way less employment court consequences.

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