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The ABC’s of Engagement can Lighten the Dark Side of High Employee Engagement

The New Employee Engagement: Putting a little light into the darkness of employee engagement.

3 Musts of the New Employee Engagement

Lewis Garrad and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic wrote a Harvard Business Review blog on August 16 entitled: The Dark Side of High Employee Engagement. I encourage you to read it and to read the comments that follow the post. I appreciate the critical perspective on engagement.

I believe we should all keep an open mind, but not so open that our brains fall out (this quote seems to have many attributions so we might want to be cautious about citing the source). I encourage you to be critical of the field of engagement and be critical of the criticisms of engagement. I appreciate skeptics but also encourage cynics to be skeptical of their cynicism.

It is very unfortunate that the authors refer to “meta-analytic studies” “correlations” “recent study” “research shows” “Studies” “our own research” “it is true”  and “research has found” without citing the actual sources.  Just as I am not a fan of anonymous surveys for employee engagement I am not a fan of citing anonymous research – most undergraduate university students would lose a lot of marks for submitting an essay when they fail to be specific about their sources.

I also wish just once the authors would offer their definition of employee engagement or the definition that they are using.  There are many definitions of engagement (Engaging for Success Report, 2009). My personal definition of engagement is neither perfect nor definitive but at least is a step towards clarity by defining engagement as: good work done well with others every day.

The provocative nature of the piece is encouraging, the potential threats of engagement are disconcerting, and the conclusion we need to take a more balanced view of employee engagement…and the common understanding of engagement as “happiness” is too simplistic is helpful. But I hope that getting along and getting ahead are not mutually exclusive and that engagement does not push an employee into burnout but may help them leave work with more energy. And to go out on a limb I also believe that work has the potential to contribute to our overall wellbeing. To me engagement is about the ABC‘s: Achieve results, Build relationships, Cultivate wellbeing. We need all 3.

Thanks Lewis and Tomas for writing a post to trigger some critical reflection on engagement as I see it and work with it, and I trust if you write another post you will be more specific with your definitions and sources.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert from Winnipeg, Canada.

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