The subject of encouraging and creating employee engagement is at the top of most management ‘to do’ lists. It has become a "must have" and a number one priority for many employers.
While many good things often come from engaged employees, including higher performance, better job satisfaction and increased loyalty to employers, the potential downsides of employee engagement is rarely discussed. However, it's important that both management and employees should understand—and avoid—the dark side of employee engagement.
Dr. John Sullivan, widely recognized as an HR ‘thought-leader,’ has written over 900 articles and 10 books regarding talent management. Dr. Sullivan eloquently covered many of the potential engagement issues in his article for ere.net, “What’s Wrong with Employee Engagement? The Top 20 Potential Problems.”
He breaks down the possible negative issues into five main categories, with specific problems noted therein. Consider these issues, while deciding whether you have ever witnessed any of these downsides at work.
Management Efforts to Increase Employee Engagement
- Using anonymous employee surveys
- Paying special attention to employees to increase job satisfaction and performance
- Attempts (via print, digital and verbal communication) to influence the emotional states of employees
- Using different engagement factors to influence generational employees
- All surveys contain a number of unreliable or untrue responses.
- Anonymous surveys deliver no information regarding whom to target.
- How often should employers survey employees?
- When do employees become engaged? At hire or over time?
- Managers should, but don’t always, believe that employee engagement fuels business success.
- Management and staff often lack understanding of the psychological factors of engagement.
- Management may not fully understand the impact of engagement levels or take action when levels are low.
- Managers and staff seldom earn rewards for achieving high employee engagement.
Business Impact Issues
- Employee engagement equals neither productivity nor output.
- Engagement has no clear definition.
- Engagement is not a positive cause, but only may be a byproduct.
- Employee engagement may deliver unsatisfactory return on investment (ROI).
- There is no documented proof that engagement lowers employee turnover.
- Strong employer emotional ties may inhibit, not motivate, high performance.
- Engagement action plans often focus on the wrong goals.
Sullivan believes that employee engagement efforts are worthwhile, as the potential productivity improvements are valuable. He thinks that the noted potential problem areas should be addressed, analyzed and corrected, if they exist. His extensive research indicates that many managers and staff believe HR often “owns” employee engagement survey data and results. Managers and staff who perceive this condition tend to feel disenfranchised.
To attract the attention of senior management, HR should freely communicate the apparent employee engagement levels to managers and staff. Get the word out. This will spur feelings of “ownership” and enlighten managers and staff to produce goal-achieving results.
Employers should take an inventory of their successes and failures in developing employee engagement levels that improve organization operating results. Should management identify some of the potential problems noted, it behooves company executives to take action to diffuse and correct these issues.
While management can take pride in surveys that show their staff is engaged, executives must translate engagement into business impact and performance. This responsibility also falls on employees. Ask yourself if you feel engaged, satisfied with your job and, as a result, putting forth maximum effort for every task you’re assigned? While management should support your engagement and create a workplace environment that helps you perform, it is up to you to take advantage of the opportunity to succeed.
Always make your best efforts to perform to your maximum ability. Use your engagement, talent and these performance opportunities to enhance your job, compensation level and career.