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The Big #$!@ing Secrets of Employee Engagement (Part 1)


It seems many companies have lost touch with some of the most fundamental rules of not only employee engagement, but being human beings.

No matter what, Gallup and all the other top firms report that only 30-35% of employees are ever engaged. Year after year we wake up to the news that only one third of employees in America actually enjoy going to work, and it is pretty much becoming the norm for the 21st Century.

Am I the only one who finds this incredibly depressing and unacceptable? If I may, what is the big holdup with the employers of the other 65-70%? This three-part blog series is meant to get all of us back on track by focusing in on the three big secrets to employee engagement. They may not seem like big secrets when you hear them, but the way some organizations struggle with engagement you would think that they were.

Let’s begin here: Almost half of Americans (44%) say they have worked for a mean boss. One-fifth of Americans find their workplace hostile or threatening, and over half (55%) say they work in “unpleasant or potentially hazardous” conditions. That’s not to say anything for the ones afraid to speak up. It seems many companies have lost touch with some of the most fundamental rules of not only employee engagement, but being human beings.

That brings me to the first “big #$!@ing secret” of employee engagement: BE NICE.

In a lot of ways that is literally all it takes. It has been common knowledge that being nicer to employees gets the best results since John Maynard Keynes famously proposed the 15-hour work week back in 1930. Frederick Herzberg essentially created a management guide to being nice in 1959 when he published his motivation-hygiene theory. In more modern times, extremely successful businesspeople like Jack Welch, Craig Jelinek, and Chade-Meng Tan extoll the virtues of being nice constantly. There is no excuse to not have picked up on this by now.

When we talk about employee engagement as a thing, we ask these questions:

  • How do I get people to respect me?
  • How do I get people to work more efficiently?
  • How do I get people to not hate me or the company?
  • How do I get people more excited about work?
  • How do I motivate a team?
  • How do I increase profits?
  • How do I change my corporate culture?
  • How do I improve personal relationships?
  • How do I make genuine connections with people?

The answer to every single one is BE NICE. You can’t shortcut or fake compassion; everyone knows when it isn’t there. Yes you can always squeeze and cajole a little more work out of someone but there’s no cheese at the end of that tunnel. You have to make it a rule from the top down to always be nice and stick to it. Everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, will work harder for someone who is nice to them and work less hard for someone who is mean to them – I don’t have to tell you this.

While you’re at it go easy on yourself too! We all know nobody in their right mind sets out to be the mean company that nobody wants to work for – I get it! Human relationships, human resources, human anything is hard and nobody is expecting you to reinvent the wheel. You can do this if you keep it simple, you take care of each other; you build trust and respect. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

BE NICE to each other.