Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Myth of Resiliency (Understanding Employee Engagement--Part III)

Resiliency is a mythical state invented by HR and career counselors to address the crazy state of the work world. In fact, it is a concept whose time never came. Today's employees don't want to be resilient; they want to be gainfully employed. Like parents on the brink of divorce who spout platitudes about how the kids are better off with two happy, but separate parents then in a single household with warring factions, nobody wants to actually ask the kids how they feel. And employee resilience is just as mythical.

Members of today's workforce are not resilient; they just cope because they have to. But they don't have to--or maybe can't--be happy about it. Expecting engagement under the current circumstances is unrealistic and usually results in a charade. Employers clearly want employees to be engaged, and employees know better then to disappoint. So they play along. But that's not engagement, and anyone looking just below the surface sees the anger, anxiety and frustration that employees experience as a result of "living on the edge."

Let's scrap resiliency as a desired state for workers. There's a simple formula for keeping employees engaged: handle them with care. If organizations didn't keep clobbering people with threats of imminent joblessness, rigid work structures and untenable job responsibilities, employees would be more engaged. Engagement is a state that comes from a sense of satisfaction from one's work, a regularly affirmed belief that one's contribution matters and a sense of trust between employers and employees. Unless employees can see those elements in their work situations, they will go to default mode: look busy and keep looking.

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