Thanks for the Engagement-But We Don't Need You Anymore

Bill of Rights I read a fantastic article today from Rodd Wagner, author of Widgets: 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees as if They are Real People, and called “Thank You for Laying Me Off, Said Almost No One.”

Rodd brilliantly explores the major contradictions between the current engagement and retention push, where companies want truthful answers on engagement surveys, genuine and passionate commitment to the mission of the company, and “best friends” at work, but then when it comes time to “remix” (Marissa Mayer’s creepy term for layoffs) then the company responds: “Sorry, it’s just business.”

The quote below from Rodd’s piece is something I have seen personally at companies where I’ve worked:

One of the biggest contradictions of the current unwritten employment contract is that many companies simultaneously expect traditional corporate-family-for-life loyalty while reserving the option not to reciprocate it.

I have been vocal in HR against this hypocrisy—it doesn’t do any favors for true engagement to perpetuate an imbalance in the loyalty factor. I believe it’s possible to be real, transparent and trusting without overstepping the boundaries with employees.

Yes, we should celebrate when we’re in the zone, doing great work towards a mission we all believe in, and enjoying the relationships we have with one another. We should always be doing everything we can to support this feeling and energy at work.

But when it comes time for someone to move on, I am strongly against the natural tendency of some (unhealthy) organizations bashing those who jumped ship for a better-fit opportunity. When I hear inaccurate statements like “she wasn’t really committed,” or “these Millenials like to job-hop,” or even “he was just looking for more money” (who isn’t?) my response is always the following:

Did I miss something? I didn’t realize the company was promising to employ me as long as I continue to be totally engaged and committed and doing great work. I’m really happy to know that I can count on a job as long as I want one.

And everyone just laughs. ;-) Then the real conversation begins.

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