The dark side of high employee engagement

13th Oct 2016
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It is a common misconception to look at ‘high employee engagement’ and ‘productivity’ as synonymous. Although it seems to be a natural consequence, since a team that gets along well together will in all probability yield better results, it isn’t always quite the case. In some instances, it has been observed that although a company may focus on a high level of employee engagement, it may not fare as well in reality since there is a certain degree of complacency that could come about as a result.

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This is not to undermine the fact that, as the Harvard Business Review states, engaged businesses units have delivered better performances in terms of revenues and profits, as well as better service quality and customer ratings. However, at the same time we can’t overlook the fact that despite the company or organization’s best efforts to engage its employees into productivity, there is always a possibility that the outcome will render the opposite – a lax attitude, complacency and lacking a sense of purpose.

According to Google, there are other factors that inspire a great sense of productivity among employees, some of which are employing a safe and open team that has clear goals and a strong drive for purpose. Other reports credit the leader’s judgement and decision making ability to influence the team’s organizational performance. In this point, it is important to note that we aren’t speaking about a leader’s personality or mind-set here. Rather, we speak more on the lines of how they get work done.

Whichever avenue you wish to attribute the success of a company to, the truth is that all cards should not be laid at the hands of employee engagement, because sometimes it may yield some negative outbreaks.

Complacency

It has often been said that it is the struggle that makes the journey worthwhile. Every individual needs a push in his or her career to drive them to success. No matter what the beginning point of an individual’s professional journey is, it is only when they are faced with some major obstacles, especially from within the company, that they will question everything they have worked for until this point and learn how to counter it and get better at the game. With high employee engagement, chances are that the employee will focus more on building a good rapport with their colleagues and tip-toe around to avoid hurting their professional sentiments, leading to a sense of complacency abound the workplace, which will lead to a rapid fall in productivity.

The fear factor

High employee engagement encourages a sense of unity through the ranks among a professional team. Although this is a great initiative, it negates the fear of being reprimanded for making mistakes – one that keeps employees on their toes. Once he or she understands that their ‘unity’ as a team will save them from a downfall, they tend to take their work and position for granted and pool in a fourth of the effort they started out with.

Questioning authority

The key to innovation comes with testing the bounds of the existing, and to question these bounds one needs to feel a sense of disconnect with it. It is only when one clamours for change, to introduce something new and radical in the workforce despite raised eyebrows and behind-the-palm mutterings that the company peters towards the positive and the productive, because this newly introduced innovation could be just what it needs to improve its sales and image. As mentioned before, high employee engagement strives to keep everyone happy and compliant with each other, and as a result a sense of laxness comes into play where the individual entities of the team are too content with the prevailing conditions to muster up the energy for change, leading to a sense of monotony on their desk-tops.

Security issues

One of the biggest dangers of high employee engagement is that in an effort to make everyone feel as one and keep them informed on the goings-on of the company, chances are that the word ‘confidentiality’ flies out of the window. With this need to ‘share’ to make all employees feel ‘included’, chances are that crucial information regarding the company can be leaked by one of these very employees to outside sources, which will naturally affect the company’s official image in the market.

What companies need to strive for is a balance between engaging their employees for a united work front and simultaneously keeping a certain level of professional distance so they do not get the opportunity to get too comfortable and push themselves to their greatest potential.

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