The Employee Engagement-Overwhelm Cycle

Prior to about twenty years ago, you didn’t hear much on the subject of employee engagement. Then a bunch of management consultants discovered it was a billion dollar problem. It’s my hope and prediction that in the next twenty years one of its root causes is recognized as widely. Employee engagement was revealed as a hidden root cause of business problems, after decades of being unnoticed. Great!

But what are the hidden root causes of poor employee engagement?

You don’t see this talked about. Instead, you see articles about how to fix it: company meetings, picnics, recognition, etc.

Isn’t that interesting?

This is common in our culture, though. We like to try to fix problems before we understand where they came from in the first place. It’s this kind of short-sightedness that causes many of our solutions to fall equally short.

There’s no think-tank or research group testing the following theory that I know of, but see if it makes intuitive sense to you. Employee engagement problems are the result of a number of deeper problems. In this article, I’m going to address just one, as simply and directly as I can. Here’s how it looks to me:

The Employee Engagement-Overwhelm Cycle

  1. It’s well understood that employees bring emotional needs to work like being listened to and the desire to affect their environment.
  2. Employees expect (consciously or not) their managers to be emotionally present and meet these needs.
  3. Almost no one is taught the organizational skills to manage all there is to do with a clear head and an open heart. Busyness erodes emotional availability.
  4. Because of 3, low to moderate levels of chronic overwhelm and emotional unavailability are considered normal in the workplace.
  5. Chronic overwhelm allows for functionality but inhibits the emotional presence employees need. Managers are distracted, fatigued, and view employee emotional needs as “one more thing they have to deal with” rather than the most important part of their job.
  6. Employees with unmet emotional needs perform at lower levels at best, and at worst act out against the interests of the company in rebellion.
  7. Lower employee performance and conflict stresses managers, adding to their existing overwhelm.
  8. More overwhelmed managers are emotionally even less present for their employees.
  9. This circles back to 6 and creates a negative feedback loop.
  10. This is all so normal, it persists to some degree in most workplaces and so doesn’t occur to people as a problem to solve. It’s just the way it is.

Because I talk so much about being organized, many people must think I’ve always been a neat-freak. Ask my mother! For most of my life, I erred on the sloppy side, honestly. Organization got a bad reputation because it’s rarely seen as a means to an end. If emptying your inbox every day was part of promoting a healthy culture in your department, does it still seem “geeky?” If having absolutely everything on a to-do list meant your employees felt deeply listened to by you, would you still think it was excessive? If typing all of your file folders meant you were more there for your children, does it still seem “anal?”

You cannot know what the effects on your life and others’ will be when you get super well-organized. That’s what makes it so exciting! Do you want to find out? If not now, when? Start the free trial today. Getting organized is the first step to solving any problem because it allows you to bring all of you to the table.

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