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Aug 21, 2014

We think there are millions of ways to engage, or disengage, employees but there aren’t.

Truly, there are only six. The six basic emotions we feel as humans, which are:

  1. Anger;
  2. Disgust;
  3. Fear;
  4. Happiness;
  5. Sadness;
  6. Surprise.

Does “happy” equal “engaged?”

Knowing there are only six doesn’t necessarily make it any easy for us to figure out how to raise engagement, but at least it will help you giving you a concrete starting point.

Let me help get you started. Of the six, only one really help you engage in a positive way — Happiness. The other five can all be very disengaging factors: Anger, Disgust, Fear, Sadness and Surprise.

So, you want to raise engagement? Well, that seems easy, because happy employees will equal engaged employees.

But, you’ll have your haters which will say, “Tim! Just because I’m happy doesn’t make me ‘Engaged’!”

Yes, you’re right, but have you ever tried to engage an employee who was angry, disgusted, fearful, sad or unexpectedly surprised? It’s tough.

If I need to increase engagement, I would prefer to start with happy employees. It just makes my job easier.

Going the “negative” engagement route

In the short-term you could “engage” employees by the negative emotions as well, but that never plays out well long-term. I can make employees fearful for their jobs, their livelihood, and they will perform better for a little while and seem very engaged — until they find another job. All the negative emotions can be played out like this.

So, I’m left with Happiness. It’s not a bad emotion to be stuck with if you can only have one that helps you. I like happy people, even on Monday mornings. It’s better than dealing with assholes for sure!

We focus our engagement on so many things that have little impact on the emotion of happiness. We spend millions of dollars a year on leadership development because better leaders raise engagement, we’re told. We spend millions of dollars on building better environments because $800 office chairs raise engagement. We spend millions of dollars on increasing wages and benefits, because more raises engagement.

But none of these really raise happiness.

“But, Tim! You’ve told us before you can’t ‘make’ someone happy.”

The dirty little secret about engagement

Ah, now we’ve come to something important. If you can’t “make” someone happy, how can we positively raise the engagement of our employees?

You can’t. It’s a dirty little secret the engagement industry doesn’t want you to know (oh boy, can’t wait for Big Papi Paul to kill me in the comments on this one!).

You can raise the engagement of your organization, though. Hire happy people. Happy people aren’t just happy some of the time, they’re predisposed, for the most part, to be happy. Hiring happy people consistently over time will raise your engagement.

Do you have a pre-employment assessment for happiness? Probably not. HR people hate happy people.

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