Engaged with my organisation. Disengaged with my boss!
- Aug 10th 2020
This blog is authored by Nathan Prakash
As I write this article, a lot is going on in the world of politics in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Mr. Ashok Gehlot, the Chief Minister of the state, has his sword crossed with Mr. Sachin Pilot’s, who until his recent dismissal, served as Deputy Chief Minister. While most imagined that the younger Mr. Pilot would naturally switch to the party in opposition, he sprung a surprise. He reiterated his committed allegiance to the political party he has always been with. Those who know of this situation, know also that Mr. Pilot played a pivotal role in the last state elections that saw his party being victorious. Mr. Pilot – engaged with his organization but not with his boss.
I love the definition of Engagement I was introduced to by my boss right at the start of my career in Human Resources. An employee is engaged with her organization when she is willing to ‘Say’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Strive’ for it. I learned much later that this brilliant definition of Employee Engagement was the distilled outcome of a study that saw its end in the Aon Hewitt Engagement Model.
An engaged employee ‘Says’ well of his firm, that is to say, he speaks well, positively, with a sense of ownership and excitement about his organization. He also chooses to ‘Stay’ with the organization, a natural outcome given his sense of belonging with the company. Stay, not because of the lack of other desirable opportunities, but despite them rolling into his yard often. And even as he ‘Stays’, he doesn’t do so with complacence but ‘Strives’ with a desire to see the organization do well. His every day is full of energy and enthusiasm to press on, even on days when he gets brickbats – irrespective of whether he deserved them or not.
An employee is either engaged or disengaged with the organization. There’s no third way about it. He could though be disengaged & unsatisfied or dangerously – disengaged & satisfied.
Disengaged & unsatisfied people generally bail their way out of the organization soon. The other category of disengaged employees, those that are satisfied, are detrimental to an organization. You ask me if such people exist? Well, remember the colleague who will do the bare minimum to keep his job because he has no dream of his own and for whom the organization is just a means to his meager end. Remember the leader in your firm who calls himself so because of his hierarchical position, but whose insecurities of losing his fat salary and not finding one elsewhere drive him to manipulate his way within the organization.
Imagine with me now an engaged employee reporting to a disengaged manager. This could happen because of internal transfers or because a bad hire made it to sitting in the manager’s seat. The engaged employee knows the pulse of the organization, understands the management’s intentions for the firm’s present & future, has a great grip on her work, and because of all this, knows how to present her ideas in a manner that gets the management’s buy-in. But the ideas never make it to the higher levels because the disengaged boss has his own plans for self-preservation. The engaged employee displays great energy, sustained creativity, and an unending drive to see the organization move forward but these don’t get through to the super bosses given the inability of the disengaged boss to carry them forward. I hope these situations prove enough the possibility of an employee being engaged with the organization but disengaged from her supervisor.
I shudder to think of the number of organizations where their high potential talent leaves them not because of disengagement with the organization but because of disengagement with the manager. Organizations, therefore, need to have systems that help look through the manager to find and nurture engaged talent, otherwise caught under the smokescreen of the manager’s disengagement.
One such practice would be to have skip-level meetings, one that allows for the management to recognize ‘engaged’ talent that wouldn’t otherwise rise given the ‘disengaged’ manager’s bottleneck. Another would be to create open spaces within an organization for employees of various levels to pitch in their ideas to solve business situations, without the filter of the disengaged manager. Yet another practice to help identify and thereafter tackle disengaged but satisfied managers would be to include formal feedback from his subordinates as part of his annual review process. Whatever works for the organization, but something needs to be done to clasp disengaged managers, and free engaged talent to blossom. If not, the organization would inadvertently allow such managers to model the wrong notion of being successful within it, snuffing out not just its future talent but its own future.
Rajat is a Master Certified Coach (MCC) with over 18 years of industry experience and over 2500 hours of coaching experience, helping people and organizations attain maximum effectiveness. His background includes working with CXOs, senior managers, managers and board of directors of small private companies to multi-billion dollar publicly traded organizations.