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What’s wrong with employee engagement? Ask Facebook

Toby Elwin Blog, Marketing, Organization Behavior 6 Comments

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 a simple destructive behavior every motivation/engagement effort rolled out by management is undermined.  The simple destructive behavior relies one simple maxim:  public embarrassment is not a motivational tool.

Gliding effortlessly from enterprise motivation initiatives and half-baked, South Beach Diet programs of the near past we, currently we find human resource departments and management teams 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.

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… If you’re so disrespectful to your parents and yourself as to post this kind of thing on Facebook, you’re 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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