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The Funny Thing About Employee Engagement

It’s easy to make fun of employee engagement based on how some companies approach it. They proclaim “employees are our greatest asset” — it says so in our annual report! — but it’s all lip service. They conduct an employee engagement survey or two, but don’t respond to the results. They may even appoint an employee task force to come up with ideas to improve engagement, but with no authority or budget to make anything happen.

It’s not surprising that these companies experience low morale and engagement. They also inspired a business, Despair, Inc., that sells anti-motivational products that satirize superficial engagement. Here’s a sample of Despair’s demotivational posters:

  • Apathy: If we don’t take care of the customer, maybe they’ll stop bugging us.”
  • “Get to Work: You aren’t being paid to believe in the power of  your dreams.”
  • “Perseverance: The courage to ignore the obvious wisdom of turning back.””
  • “Worth: Just because you’re necessary doesn’t mean you’re important.”

Sadly, Despair, Inc. wouldn’t be successful if it didn’t resonate with people who work in companies where workplace engagement involves displaying motivational posters and initiating token employee recognition programs.

For those of us passionate about employee engagement, Despair’s response to ineffective, insincere and/or shallow attempts to engage employees is an opportunity to poke fun at ourselves, while also reminding us of the importance of our work.

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