♫ ♪ Clap along if you feel like… happiness is the truth… ♫ ♪
Don’t assume that an engaged employee is a happy employee. People often confuse employee satisfaction with employee engagement and they really shouldn’t.
Think about it. What emotional states demonstrate that you really care about something or someone? Being happy with everything they do and say is not what I’m thinking. I’m thinking frustration and envy for starters. Let me explain…
The most valuable employee is the one who gets frustrated when change doesn’t occur. She gets frustrated when she sees complacency and waste. And she cares enough to say and do something about it.
At the same time, she feels envious of a rival’s reputation for superior customer service or a world class new product – and she really wants to do something about it. She won’t settle for second best and continually pushes the boundaries to find better ways to do things. She knows that your rivals are stealing your customers because you’re missing a trick and she’s not prepared to sit there and do nothing about it.
The happy chappy she sits next to gets on with his job, smiling his way through the day, doing everything that is asked and expected of him. He’s a valued staffer. He’s been sitting there for years, keeping his head down, enjoying his work, and he never rocks the boat. There’s nothing wrong with that – but will he follow you into the trenches when the going gets really tough?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of happiness and fun. Most employers recognise its value in the workplace and many rightly go out of their way to promote it. The danger comes when that is the primary focus of their employee engagement efforts, because this renders it no more than window dressing. An employer that ignores the more fundamental drivers of engagement in favour of window dressing is in trouble. And you’ll probably find that such an employer also prefers to be surrounded by people who nod a lot and say ‘yes’ all the time. Their silence and compliance is seen as loyalty. I see it as a lack of engagement.
The truth is our most engaged people irritate us now and again. Their passionate pleas for change may be inconvenient. Their madcap suggestions can be distracting. Their anger and frustration when simple things block their progress may embarrass us in front of our colleagues.
Get over it! Provided they are doing it because they care about the business; and they care about inefficiency; and they care about waste; and they care about the company’s future, we all need to encourage them, reward them, and pray to God that they multiply.