What’s emotion got to do with it?
By JOSEPH TAN
In today’s highly competitive environment, employees often complain about being “squeezed” to perform, with ever increasing expectations imposed. While it is valid that organisation leaders expect performance compliance, there are two fundamental emotional considerations which are neglected because competency considerations take precedence.
Workplace stress is a largely emotional issue. Hence, competency frameworks are limited in its effectiveness towards effective employee engagement. We need an emotional consideration instead. Here are a couple of emotional considerations to capture the hearts and minds of our employees.
Employees Need Coherency
Stress is symptomatic of a life which is “spread too thin” – a state of being whereby someone is trying too hard to be everything to everyone.
In Gallup’s survey of 10 million employees (ranging from a widespread of input from across the job spectrum with representation from each major continent), the results are clear – employees who have the opportunity to do what they do best every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.
The traditional approach of focusing on “areas of improvement” (which is a diplomatic definition of weakness) inevitably leads to stress because employees are asked to do more of what they are not wired to do while their area of strengths are sidelined.
It is unfortunate that in certain organisations, recognition comes as an after-thought rather than a proactive process of designing the employee’s job around what they do best every day.
The job description becomes the mould by which the employee is ‘squeezed’ into. The role then has become more important than the soul.
The starting point of building a culture of engagement excellence is the identification of personal strengths.
Without this fundamental approach to organisational development, there is no coherency between the role and the soul – which sets the stage for employee disengagement.
Setting performance goals without considering personal strengths is like deciding on the destination without first considering the capacity of the vehicle.
Employees Need Conviction
Leaders are driven by a strong sense of purpose. KPIs (key performance indicators) are hardly motivating elements by themselves. In fact, just playing the “numbers game” adds on more to the employee’s stress. The key engaging task for the organisation leader is the connection of purpose with the expected performance.
In other words, pushing for the “what” of performance without internalising the “why” of performance does little to motivate the employee to go the extra mile.
A simple indicator on whether the “why” has been adequately addressed is the regularity of authentic conversations.
It takes more than just corporate communications to connect with the hearts and minds of employees, because we are wired for authenticity.
How can conviction be forged if leaders do not listen to the opinion of their followers and do not make the effort to create alignment between personal aspirations and corporate performance?
The opposite of conviction is scepticism. When leaders preach the message of engagement without actually reaching out in personal conversations which focus on what the employees do best, then no amount of corporate communication will turn things around. This is because of the inconsistent grassroots experience.
The saying is true –
“I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care”.
Just dishing out team building programmes regularly will not improve engagement if the managers’ conversational habits do not change for the better.
In fact, a fantastic team building programme will fall flat if there is no commitment from the manager to engage his or her employees in regular conversations.
Here’s the bottom-line: While processes and events do contribute towards a culture of engagement excellence, it is the emotional experiences at the end of the day which either build or destroy employee loyalty and commitment.
As an organisational leader, ask yourself regularly:
- Am I creating coherency by helping my employees to focus on their strengths?
- Am I creating conviction by taking the initiative to engage in authentic conversations?
Consistent and positive emotional experiences initiated by great managers are necessary to reduce stress, which can lead to disengagement in the workplace.