The Dilemma of Workforce Engagement: Should I Stay or Should I Go?


I have only been a part of and  the following the on-line world of  workplace engagement for a few months. Call me a late adopter, OK, call me a troglodyte! I have been busy with other things.

What I have seen in my short period of exposure and study is that when it comes to "workplace engagement" there is no lack of passion, no lack of commitment and no lack of what always seems to happen when a subject becomes popular or mainstream; we now have self proclaimed workplace engagement experts, best practices and of course rules.

Nothing seems to shut down a conversation faster than unsolicited expertise but that doesn’t stop the chirping and given the current state of things I am already wondering whether the best work in this field may have already been done? Should I Stay or Should I Go?  (C’mon now, you have to click this!)



What gives me hope are the FEW among the writers I have been reading. There are some long time players who keep coming up with fresh ideas. There are some new faces too. What they have in common is that they address workplace engagement from very consistent  perspectives, bringing unique insight to the conversation and they are pretty good at not taking themselves too seriously.

Here are a couple of folks doing "what I consider to be good work" in this field of exploration and they are not occupying the same space or trying to establish the rightness of their views. These are not necessarily “the best” or “the leading” voices in workplace engagement, they are just two who I resonate with and I’ll be introducing others in the weeks ahead.

Pam Slim offers a consistent message (Escape from Cubicle Nation) to anyone who may have ‘had enough’ of the corporate environment, Pam being one of those people herself. Back in 2006 she wrote a remarkably authentic KISS OFF to corporate life and she did it in a way that opened a door for anyone else to follow. If you are feeling a bit downtrodden and under appreciated, thinking about leaving where you are these days, a thorough reading of her ‘Open Letter to CEO’s…’ is a tasty treat. Like a fine wine this piece continues to improve with age.

Why I like Pam’s work, she is not anti-corporate, she is pro-person and she is also anti-phony, stupid, mean, selfish and cruel. (So as you can see, she can’t be half bad.) She just happened to notice that some of any company’s highest paid people are guilty of pretty stupid behavior that they wouldn’t put up with if it was aimed their way. I find all this to be a refreshing combination. In my mind she qualifies as a real pioneer in this field.

Another pioneer, a guy taking things in an entirely different direction, is David Zenger. A couple of years back David established an on-line community, The Employee Engagement Network. As a ‘labor of love’ David handles whatever administration is required to keep this community up and running. With over 2200 members joining in just over two years this self-organizing community of practitioners seems to be thriving and a demonstration of the passion that does exist for further opportunities to address the ongoing issue of under-humanized workplaces.

Back in September of 2008 David himself went on a bit of a rant about rules when it comes to the practitioners of  workplace engagement consulting

"No more rules of engagement. I am tired of people writing rules of engagement. The rules of engagement are about war and work needs to stop being war and we need to stop telling people there are 5, 8 or 10 simple rules they must follow for successful engagement.

Yet, he remains a “glass half full” guy and prolific contributor to the study of the topic. His posting of March 22nd this year, to his own blog site, echoes Pam Slim’s sentiments from four years back.

The message from both these sources seems very similar to me; ‘the jig is up’ on paying lip service to or turning a blind eye to engagement issues in our places of work. Whether we are employers, executives, managers or employees the world we live in now requires that this matter be addressed honestly. From the company perspective it is a matter of competitive viability. From the point of view of the individual there are no longer the excuses about needing a job. ( A quick scan of the membership of my local Chamber of Commerce showed me that 40% of the membership were sole practitioners working out of their homes!)

  • Have you authentically assessed your own level of workplace engagement?
  • Do you have a plan to address any deficiencies you’ve noticed?
  • What are your ideal working conditions and how close are you to them?



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