Many of us aren’t engaged at work. What’s so bad about that?


Why do people make such a fuss about employee engagement? Why is engagement deemed to be so critical?

There is a huge industry that has been built up around this latest buzz concept in consultancy. If you Google employee engagement to work out just how many consultants have jumped on this bandwagon you first have to get past the sponsored links from the usual suspects screaming that just about nobody is engaged with their work! Call us now! We will, for a fee, get all your workers straightened out and pointing towards the altar of company profits!

If you cannot make enough money as a surfer, you can find (and appreciate) a job that provides you with the means to go surfing.

If you cannot make enough money as a surfer, you can find (and appreciate) a job that provides you with the means to go surfing.Credit: Attila Csaszar

Employee engagement is variously defined, but a popular one comes from the oft-cited Gallup surveys “State of the Global Workforce”. Their definition of engaged employees are those who “are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. They are psychological “owners,” drive performance and innovation, and move the organisation forward.”

They are contrasted with the “quiet quitters” who are those that “are psychologically unattached to their work and company. Because their engagement needs are not being fully met, they’re putting time but not energy or passion into their work”

Why should being “psychologically unattached” to your work and company be equated in any way with “quitting”? We have known for 40 years or more, not least due to the pioneering work of Australian organisational psychologist Dr Robert Pryor, that work reward expectations vary between people.

A significant number of the workforce have always seen work as a means to an end, rather than an end in of itself. Put simply, if you cannot make enough money as a surfer, you can find (and appreciate) a job that provides you with the means (usually money, time, and flexibility) to go surfing.

Engagement is marketed as being in the interests of employees, but it is often yet another scheme to boost profits by squeezing more out of workers.

Many people are grateful for roles that give them avocational options in their lives. Some might want a job that they can forget about when they are not there to keep their work and private lives separate. Others might be happy to put in long, or even unpaid, hours to get to the airport on a Sunday to be somewhere for a Monday meeting because that drawback is outweighed by the opportunity to travel, and stay in swanky hotels.

Sometimes if you dig down into the questions that are used to determine if you are a quiet quitter or engaged, you might be surprised to see what is included. They can cover things like having a best friend in your workplace, or that you are being subjected to regular talks about or opportunities for development.



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