No big surprise but yesterday’s blog got me thinking. Really thinking. I was disturbed when I thought about Harvey Schachter’s article that said that research showed that the most engaged staff may be the worst performers.
Here I was blithely coaching away to the proposition that increased employee engagement leads to better results. In fact I’ve probably said it many times in blogs and done just a few pictographs and several white papers on the subject.
So this new research made me think. What if instead of high engagement leading to great results, the high engagement was a product of the great results.
Just think about it for a second. If your team is playing well, you’re over the moon happy, highly engaged, right there with them. If it isn’t doing well, you’re mildly put off, disgruntled, or ack….disengaged.
Yes, you’re engaged when your team is doing well, disengaged when it’s doing badly.
What if that is true in business as well? Perhaps companies with good results have engaged employees because it is fun to work there when things are going well and there is money to spend on employee perks. When your company isn’t doing well, it isn’t fun to work in a stressful environment where the company doesn’t have extra money to spend on perks.
Perhaps employee engagement comes from good results and not the other way around.
This for me was a terrifying realization. That I who very conceitedly prides himself on understanding the difference between correlation and causality could confuse one for the other and miss the potential of reverse causality just because Gallup had done so much research on the subject of employee engagement. Rookie move.
From here on I pledge myself to figuring out whether results and engagement are merely correlated or whether there is a causal factor at work and engaged employees cause better results or vice versa.
Engagement = Results
Results = Engagement
Don’t pull your hair out Charles. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It can be both! Nay – it must be both! One thing I know for sure is that disengaged peons can’t lead to innovation (unless that innovation is replacing staff with robots and computers). We also know that employees who become engaged after the great results will not get the respect of those who toiled, took their jobs personally, and poured passion into their projects. This is not to say that increased engagement after the victory is not necessary, but nobody likes a band-wagoner.
Good insight, Charles. This is a highly engaging topic.
Thanks for your input on this Gord. I think I’ve beaten a dead horse to death this week and I’ll put everyone out of their misery by moving on.
Or perhaps consider this:
High Engagement = lower intelligence: The employee must exert more involvement to “keep up” and contribute.
Low Engagement = higher intelligence: The employee finds the work simple, less energy needs to be exerted, results are successful.
We all know that the IQ rating is a dim signal regarding an individual’s ability to contribute, but leaders are naturally dispositioned to foster encouragement and support to those who need it the most. The result of this is the (better-abled) contributors see less attention from management and convert that into neglect, resulting in personal and professional disinterest.
Just a theory!
But then, on the other hand, perhaps engagement is not only one thing. Perhaps it is different for every individual. And therefore, a program to increase engagement is only going to reach a few people whose engagement is based on the premise of the program. Ha! To add another wrinkle, perhaps engagement completely changes over time (even daily!! yikes)as one’s life circumstances change and one develops as an individual. So, now its a complex moving target. Yikes. It’s tiring. And its a hopeless endeavour. But it is making somebody out there lots of money…
Cathy. Nice to hear from you. It is tiring and somewhat of a never ending endeavour. There is no one technique, no one answer and that’s what makes the subject of leadership so entertaining. What makes someone a good leader in one situation will not necessarily work for a different group in a different situation.
I hear you. Love your blog. Had some great chuckles and moments of identification. As an organizational psychologist, I share in the struggle for insight. Was also intrigued with Schachter’s recent article. Hmmmmmm. Maybe a coffee is in order when I am next in TO.
Sure, give me a shout next time you’re in Toronto.