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How Bad Managers Are Destroying Your Engagement Program

April 16, 2018

  • Teams

I’ve always found it interesting that there are so many management “gurus” working with so many companies helping to fix problems that they often don’t have actual experiences, like employee engagement.

For instance:

  • How can you teach someone to play the piano if you’ve never played the piano?
  • How can you teach others to lead in a complex organization if you’ve never led a complex organization?

Over my career I have seen corporations spend millions trying to develop or improve Employee Engagement, and here’s what I’ve learned:

Focus on managers, not stuff

Stop wasting your company’s money on table tennis, pool tables, Friday pizza days, futons and employee fun night out. These things are nice but not sustainable in building meaningful engagement. I have worked more than three decades as an HR Executive with small and large corporations across several industries. If you would allow me to make an observation: bad manager = no engagement – even if you have all the perks I mentioned above.

Building a cadre of strong, effective and empathetic leaders is not easy! If it were we’d all have great bosses. It does, however, require a few things:

  1. An unshakable commitment from the top along with a strong HR function that supports this critical mission.
  2. It also requires accountability. Every single manager in your company should be 100% committed to those values and live those values every day at work.
  3. It requires zero tolerance from its leaders when those values are violated. I have heard that a company’s culture is shaped by the worst behavior leadership is willing to accept.

If you accept poor leadership then you must be willing to accept a lack of engagement. Every dollar spent on leadership development without assessing and defining what a successful leader is in your organization is money wasted.

Just think about your career and ask yourself this question: How many bad managers did I have, and what impact did they have on me personally, professionally and to my mental well-being?

Obviously there are other factors that can have an impact on engagement but nothing more significant than bad bosses!

Final thought: it should be a company’s #1 priority to fix or remove bad bosses. It’s that critical! Once this becomes a major priority you can expect to see employee engagement soar.

If you accept poor leadership then you must be willing to accept a lack of engagement.

Frank Reid, Kolbe Corp

About the author:

Frank Reid has more than three decades of experience in leadership roles in human resources and has worked both domestically and internationally in the insurance, financial services, information services and software industries. Throughout his career, Frank has gained extensive experience building highly effective teams, developing talent, and promoting consistent business practices across such organizations such as Elsevier Corporation, Ceridian Corporation, and Thomson Reuters Corporation. As executive vice president, Frank is responsible for managing Kolbe Corp’s business development efforts with large corporate accounts.

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  • Teams


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