Is Poor Employee Engagement Management's Fault?

Polls say disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees by nearly 2:1. What's going on?

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By Brian Fielkow

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A recent Gallup study found that a high percentage of managers around the globe are not meeting the need of their employees; actively disengaged employees outnumber engaged employees by nearly 2:1.

Low engagement not only drains companies of morale but also limits their ability to retain "A" level employees and holds back profits. It's easy to sit back and blame managers for low engagement, but that ignores the underlying systemic causes. Your manager is one of your most valuable resources and the conduit to assuring your established goals and behaviors penetrate the entire company. So, rather than point blame, let's put our managers in the position to ignite employee engagement by understanding the following concepts:

Managers are not the problem.

Our own inefficiencies and bureaucracies are the problem. If we put the manager in an organization that is designed (intentionally or not) to maintain the status quo, kill creativity, and fear decision-making, why are we surprised when the manager exhibits this behavior, too? The "micromanager" is often a symptom of an organization that is perfectly designed to generate this result by not promoting a culture of empowerment nor giving the manager the tools and training to develop his or her team. Blaming the manager ignores the real issue: many businesses operate using antiquated "command and control" philosophies.

Businesses fail to articulate organizational clarity.

Managers often are vested with responsibility but lack proper authority or the tools to execute on the company's strategic objectives. At this point, managers justifiably are confused and frustrated, and that spills to the front lines. Once again, the problem is not with the manager per se; it's with the company's failure to consistently communicate structures, values, and accountability and appropriately empower its managers.

Your training stinks.

Some companies offer little to no training in how to develop managers, clearly communicate, promote accountability, and lead. And again, is this the manager's problem, or is it a problem in how they are developed? Consider that many managers were promoted from front-line positions due to their work ethic and technical competencies. These attributes don't necessarily prepare someone to manage people in today's business environment. The hiring of managers via promotion from within will work best if there is an accompanying plan to develop the high potential employee into an effective leader. Somehow, many of us have bought into the contrast between a "leader" and "manager." In reality, our best managers are leaders. Are we making the appropriate effort to teach our managers how to lead, or are we just focusing on technical skills?

Managers need to be empowered.

Today's manager is the key to ensuring that your culture permeates throughout the entire business. They ensure that all employees are aligned with the company's values, strategy, and mission. Today's manager looks beyond technical skills and key performance indicators to ensure that unwanted behaviors are eliminated from the company (i.e., lack of empowerment, status-quo thinking, and micromanaging). Today's manager establishes trust at the foundation of all relationships.

Appropriately trained and aligned managers are vital to the execution of the company's mission and to the development and engagement of employees. So, next time you see a manager blamed for lack of employee engagement, you must ask: Do we have a poor manager working at our company (and we might), or is this a by-product of an organizational failure to properly train and empower our managers?

Brian Fielkow

Business Leader, Author, Keynote Speaker

Corporate culture and management advisor Brian Fielkow is the author of Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture, a how-to book based on his 25 years of executive leadership experience at public and privately held companies. With a doctorate in law from Northwestern University School of Law, he serves as owner and president of Jetco Delivery, a logistics company in Houston that specializes in regional trucking, heavy haul and national freight. 

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