A recent 2015 Red Letter Day straw poll has resulted in me having a number of sleepless nights. The poll declared that almost 40% of UK employees confirmed they were “engaged” in their jobs. And around the same time an economic survey confirmed that UK productivity was static standing nearly 20% below the average for G7 countries.
Is no one making the connection?
Is it not clear to every manager reading this?
Am I the only leader who realises these 40% of “engaged” staff are the problem.
Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to support team work; it helps to put the blame on someone else, but these percentages must be a warning to all of us to beware of this ridiculous suggestion that we as managers should spend more time on engaging our workforce. These figures are a warning to all of us. We need to address it now and stamp out staff engagement before it is too late.
Employees who get involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace are not just interfering in the normal management process. These individuals are striking right at the heart of everything management has come to love and protect. This engagement malarkey is meddling with a time honoured and proven patronage that has kept managers safe for decades. This new fangled, premise that workers care is endangering the established workplace order that has protected us since the industrial revolution . Real employees excel in sleepwalking through their workday without regard for their performance or their organisation’s performance leaving that up to the expert managers like you and I to show our real capability.
Do you realise that only half of recent leavers in the UK confirmed they resigned from their jobs because of their managers. We are failing in one of our primary tasks if we can’t achieve 100%. By maintaining environments that de-motivate staff we guarantee a regular flow through of talent available to us to use, abuse, burnout and toss out making us look good at every opportunity. And as for those who do remain we need to ensure they feel appropriately miserable while at work, and that misery needs to follows them home, compounding their stress and negatively affecting their overall well-being which means they can’t blame it on workplace stress so result all round.
I have been considering what managers need to do in the workplace to ensure we eradicate staff engagement and protect the natural order of things. In a recent very useful US study respondents were asked to rate their manager on specific behaviours. These behaviours – related to communication, performance management, and identification of weaknesses and it became clear very quickly to me that this is where the problems stem from. So here is my advice to protect your manager status from any fear of corruption from the evils that are known as staff engagement.
1) Whatever you do – do not talk to your staff
Communication is the key to manager power – tell your staff nothing, the more you know and the less they know the more powerful you are. Keep them in their place by making sure you tell them next to nothing unless it is vague and out of date. The dangers are obvious, most recently it was discovered that managers who hold regular meetings with their staff are almost three times more likely to have engaged employees. Take note and make sure that doesn’t happen. I have even heard of managers returning employee calls or responding to emails within 24 hours. God forbid this became common practice before you know it staff will actually expect us to be interested in their opinions and care about what happens in their lives outside of work? How many times must i explain that Teamwork is everyone doing what I say.
2) Base Performance Management on uncertain and confusing outcomes
Performance management is often a source of great frustration for employees and this helps to retain power with us as managers. Once you see the build up of conflict around duties and responsibilities you know you have won the battle of wills. By ensuring all staff remain disconnected from the bigger picture you guarantee your long term future in the organisation because no one else has a clue what is going on in your department. Focus on ensuring that annual reviews and developmental conversations feel forced and superficial, it’s impossible for meddling staff to think about next year’s goals when they are not even sure what tomorrow will throw at them.
Staff who have clarity of expectations are perhaps the most dangerous people you will experience in your daily work. Already there are signs that some organisations are actively persuading their managers to help these staff understand their responsibilities, agree deliverable job related goals and worst of all telling them what’s expected of them.
I cannot underestimate the danger engaged employees present to solid, longstanding traditional managers and their ability to retain control of their departments through patronage and favour. A move to assessing performance output would significantly reduce our ability to ensure the right people get the appropriate rewards for their long service without having to worry about holding them accountable for their performance.
3) Focus on Weaknesses not Strengths
Lengthy studies of human behaviour confirm that focusing on employees’ weaknesses is by far the most effective method of controlling enthusiasm and energy. A critical competence for management in this current climate of employee expectation is to develop a fixation on weaknesses. The last thing we need is a strengths-based culture in which employees learn their roles more quickly than we did, or produce more and significantly better work than we did when we were in their jobs. If we continually nitpick every little failing we can ensure they will not stay with us long enough to threaten our positions or if they do they will be so browbeat as to ensure they present no threat to us. When we help employees see every little fault in their work, and if we ensure that they are properly publically chastised for even the smallest of failing we will have ensured they know their place in the hierarchy and will not overstep the mark in future.
However in worrying developments elsewhere i have heard that some so called effective managers are helping employees grow and develop through their strengths. I have even heard of employees being placed in jobs that allow them to use the best of their natural talents, adding skills and knowledge to develop and apply their strengths. Where will this madness end!?