facebook, employee engagement, wrong, Toby Elwin, blog

What’s wrong with employee engagement? Ask Facebook

employee engagement, Gallup Management Journal, Toby Elwin, Facebook, employee, motivation

Organizations reach ever deeper into a bag of tricks to field-test management theory on their employees. Unfortunately, without dedication to resolve simple destructive behavior every motivation/engagement effort rolled out by management gets undermined. Destructive behavior relies on one simple maxim:  public embarrassment is not a motivational tool. Not much employee engagement happens after public humiliation.

Gliding effortlessly from enterprise motivation initiatives and half-baked, South Beach Diet programs of the near past, currently human resource departments and management teams are now giving engagement a try to solve the same old challenge:  motivation.

Though engagement is higher state of motivation¬†on the accession plane of employee return, engagement without both context and perspective¬†is hollow.¬† Context must begin with intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation, the employees’, not yours,¬†is the foundation to realize any change and engagement represents change.

Without motivation, engagement becomes little more than the cabbage-soup diet and provide no sustainable solution to either achieve engagement or manage engagement. As effective as the cabbage-soup is to maintain weight lose.

Engagement, as the Gallup Management Journal piece on the left highlights, is the effort above and beyond needed to get the job done.

Few look to Facebook for a reality-check on how easily employee engagement is undone. Where better to find an example of what enterprise initiatives need to not do if their engagement strategy. I say why not Facebook? And here is the reason:

Raise to Praise

Praise in public, scold in private. Many are coached¬†on this. But what happens when¬†a single manager’s lack of self-awareness meets the level¬†of the Facebook video a father posted to his daughter? See video¬†below?

What, you ask, can the paternal bond of a father and a daughter offer management? The situation, I witness far too often, is a manager’s tough love, just as a father hides behind,¬†will snap an employee or co-worker back into line. The father in this video uses tough love and tough love seems a viable option in a far too many¬†manager tool kits, as well.

Tommy Jordan, the father,¬†took offense of his 15-year-old daughter’s Facebook post. In her post his daughter complained about the chores she has at home. Mr. Jordan, took to Facebook with this video:

Whether the father is right or wrong, I ask you to think of a time someone called you out in front others. For perspective, Mr. Jordan’s video had a global audience. Employee engagement has much to do with the way you engage.

After watching the video above, think of a time someone asked you to change a behavior or pattern and asked you to do this in front of others. Mr. Jordan intentionally mocked and embarrassed his daughter and demanded her to change.

I know when I think of a similar, though, for me, not quite¬†as viral a medium as Facebook, I found nothing in the person’s approach to public embarrassment¬†provide motivation for me to change.

Instead, my reaction was to turn off and closed myself down to that person. In the situation and after I can refer myself to the Gallup chart above and I find I clearly moved further from Engaged towards Not-Engaged; or all the way further still to Actively Disengaged. I am not sure that was the intention the person had for me, but it was the result.

What You Do, Not What You Say You Do

Clinical psychologists and behaviorist also doubt the effectiveness of Mr. Jordan’s approach and would focus their concern on the unintended damage to their relationship. Expecting engagement without respect only logical finds logic in circular reasoning.

Back to the Facebook video:¬† Mr. Jordan announces,¬†“… maybe a few kids can take something away from this‚Ķ If you‚Äôre so disrespectful to your parents and yourself as to post this kind of thing on Facebook, you‚Äôre deserving of some tough love. Today, my daughter is getting a dose of tough love.”


But tough love is¬†unlikely scalable and¬†unlikely repeatable. In Mr. Jordan’s¬†relationship now that he has shot a computer with a gun and posted this soliloquy¬†on Facebook the bar is set. What does he now need to shoot?

Now back to return to respect and motivation, what relationships does a manager or leader damage in and around the organization when they publicly embarrass an employee?

Parent as disciplinarian or parent as coach?

Manager as disciplinarian or manager as coach?

What is our role?

The Atkins diet does not a healthy lifestyle make.

Public humiliation does not an employee engagement strategy make.

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Comments 6

  1. I totally agree with you. Public embarrassment isn’t the way to go. We are always very careful not to publicly humiliate our children even though how “stupid” their mistakes were. At home we scold them, after all, it is within the family, but not publicly.

    1. Post

      I appreciate the comment and thoughts.

      I had a bit of a shift in my thinking of the role leaders, or in this case parents, have in development when I read Liking the Child You Love: Build a Better Relationship with Your Kids–Even When They’re Driving You Crazy.

      Somewhere in the book they introduce the the role of a parent as a coach. With the concept that our intention is to prepare our children to be strong and prepared for life when we, their parents, are no longer there to help.

      It certainly reframes the concept of why we might even scold. The alternative to scold is to coach.

      Now take this concept to organizations. What is the role of a leader in organization?

      Why are we finding it necessary to scold?

      Are we disappointed in the other person’s behavior or our we projecting a reflection of us onto them? When others disappoint are we scolding out of our embarrassment on how they make us look?

      Should we scold, at all, or should we coach?

  2. Hi Toby,
    re: “The alternative to scold is to coach”.
    These 7 words had a lot of impact for me! To put it in “Oprah speak” it was a real “wow moment”, truthfully. But can you expand on it? What if a parent has no actual experience with coaching a team or managing employees but aspires to that mindset anyway? Can you maybe give a Top 10 high level list of ways to put this approach into practice? p.s. If anyone had told me 15 years ago that I would be asking you for parenting advice someday, I’d have said they were crazy lol. I am sincerely happy to see all of the success you have had!

    1. Post


      There’s a compliment in your comment, somewhere, I think …

      I also had a “Oprah” moment when I first thought about 2 points that resonate with me:

      Parents may get upset with their child because of the perception, by the parent, of the child to fail to meet the parent’s expectation of good behavior.

      Or possibly the parent feels let down about child’s behavior reflecting badly upon them, as a parent.

      Both points bring up the parent projecting our hang up onto the child and is that fair to project the knowledge and experience of a 20-, 30-, or 40-year old combined with the emotional development onto a child just beginning their journey to collect experiences and who are only trying to make sense of what is going on around them, their role in the world, and how every stimulus is new and exciting?

      The tie-in to coaching (and I am not talking about the tyrannical coach of a major-league sports team of adults) is that, as a coach, you set the stage for their safety to explore, experience, and accumulate knowledge in the safety of discovery. You help develop their curiosity. You are there to help them make sense of the flood of things that are hitting them and to give them confidence to discovery, that you will protect and piece together all these crazy experiences.

      Just a bit of a different lens that creates a whole new world of possibility.

      Think of one situation where you may have gotten aggravated with the disconnect of what you expected with what happened. If you revisit the situation with a coaching lens, what may have been your observation, your reaction, your role in setting new expectations as well as what may have been a better choice.

      I am not sure you need coaching experience to draw upon, just the willingness to shift the view from discipline to development. I don’t know what you might view a situation as in those two different perspectives. Can’t tell you there is a magic bullet, feel it out for yourself and give yourself room to learn along the way as well.

      A top 10 list? I can’t give you a list, you need your own, that you want to try on and own. What would you say might be the top 3 on your list of intentions you might try?

      Your list might change as you get more comfortable or priorities shift. I can’t give you a prescription. However, I can advocate that you trying a different way to connect is not a matter of success or failure, but that you trying a different way to connect with your daughter shows that you care enough to try. That effort is something that reveals you care enough to change.

      So, you give me 3, I’ll try to add to it and see how it comes out.

      No greater high than when your child is emotionally confident. This world is not so easy our role as parent/coach is to get them confident for when we are no longer here. That is our legacy.

      1. My gut knee-jerk reaction:
        1. If my daughter were my employee, I think I may have fired her by now
        2. There is huge difference between dealing with a Tween vs an adorable little kid!

        Its not the lack of results that bothers me – its the lack of effort! And yeah, maybe I do take it personally because my perception is that is that it indicates disrespect, rightly or wrongly.

        More importantly I worry that unwillingness to do even the most miniscule of tasks is a character flaw that may prevent her from achieving success later in life. This is amplified all the more now that we are our own even smaller “family unit”. I think she suffers from what I call “Cinderella complex” – she thinks if a parental or other authority person asks her to lift a finger – that equals mistreatment, i.e. the Evil Stepmother making Cinderella do all the chores and wait on everyone else in the household. (Maybe with a boy you don’t watch this Disney classic 80,000 times but I think the analogy is clear).

        Example: Daughter and I meet friends for dinner and we talk exhaustively about the same old things (1) 13 year old never does her assigned recycling task, then complains when said recycling bin is overflowing (2) 12 year old is irresponsible with sports equipment, loses or misplaces it constantly and expects Mom to replace it. Mom does so because she doesn’t want to let the whole team down.

        Driving home with 11 year old Daughter later, I go on a 15 minute tirade about how she has actually only performed her assigned chores (recycling & dusting) maybe 3 times in the last year and that was only after numerous reminders’, scolding’s, threats, etc. I then state that her 2 chores must be completed tomorrow morning or she will stay home and miss out on the fun stuff we had planned. Very calmly, she says “remind what were those 2 chores were again?” – and she was NOT joking. Clearly its going in one ear and right out the other. ARRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHH!

        Okay my Top 3 Coaching list:
        1. Motivate and provide incentives rather than penalize
        2. Provide more structure so my “coach-ee” or “employee” knows exactly what is expected and has the tools and knowledge to be effective
        3. Constantly promote confidence building and create a sense of pride in personal accomplishments and growth

        My challenges:
        1. To be consistent and follow-through
        2. To be patient: my “team member” is new and still in a training stage
        3. To Keep Calm and Carry On – tirades are counter-productive and only make me tired (tirades>tired – that can’t be cooincidence?!)

        Thank you! This exercise has been really helpful!

        1. Post

          You can not undo year’s of interaction in a day or even a week. Your reliability is key and as you are just adopting this give yourself some slack.

          Also, your daughter is not your employee. This site and blog is geared to people in organizations and how they interact and motivate each other.

          I aim to provide insight for:

          • employee to employer relations
          • teams
          • leaders
          • managers

          Family and family values are a whole different level. Look at the Liking the Child You Love book for more professional, as well as orderly, advice.

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