Friday, October 14, 2011


One of the buzzword phrases floating around the Day Job over the last couple of years is "employee engagement". That is, for those of you who aren't fluent in Corporatespeak, the extent to which employees are committed to their jobs and whether they're more likely to stay with this company than merely use it as a resume rung. The theory is that employees who are highly "engaged" are more likely to produce high-quality work, and to go above and beyond.

I find the whole thing vaguely disturbing and, frankly, a little insulting. Back in the 80s, when it became accepted practice for companies to simply lay off employees in order to get through lean times, rather than reserving such measures for drastic measures, the corporate structure lost its right to any kind of employee loyalty. If you're not going to take care of me, then there should be no reason for me to feel the need to care what happens to you, either.

But here we are: employee engagement. The way they determine employee engagement is by issuing a series of (supposedly) anonymous surveys. The surveys contain some questions which seem to make sense to me ("Do I know what is expected of me at work?" "Do I have the materials and resources needed to accomplish my tasks?") to the unnecessarily and creepily feelgoody ("Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?") and the utterly ridiculous ("Do I have a best friend at work?").

Let's be completely honest: It would be nice if I had a "best friend" at work, but while I sincerely like most of the people I work with, and while one or two of them might even qualify as friends, "best friend" is a social designation, not a business one, and I don't think the corporation should be privy to my social life. If my boss seems to care about me as a person, then that builds my personal loyalty to my boss, but it does nothing for my overall loyalty to the company -- because I know that, if profit margins dip, my boss's boss will tell him to reduce overhead with some layoffs, and my boss, whether he cares about me personally or not, will have to do it.

Oh, and one other thing. When they schedule an hour-long meeting to talk about how we can improve our engagement scores, and they schedule that meeting to run past 5pm? I am definitely not feeling engaged.

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