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Responsibility for Employee Engagement

This week I’m starting with a joke.

It had been pouring with rain and the floodwaters were rising. A religious man (could be Christian, Muslim, Hindu – doesn’t matter) was watching the floods rise anxiously as he retreated to the top floor of his house. A boat came along and offered to rescue him.

“It’s OK,” said the religious man. “The Lord, my God will rescue me.”

The boatmen shrugged and went off to rescue other people.

The rain continued and the religious man had to climb on to the roof of his house.

A second boat came along and offered to rescue him. Once again the religious man said: “It’s OK. The Lord, my God will rescue me.” The boat went off.

The flood waters rose and rose and by now the religious man was clinging to the chimney stack.

A third boat came along and offered to rescue him. Yet again the religious man said: “It’s OK. The Lord, my God will rescue me.” The boat went off.

The flood waters rose, the religious man fell in and was drowned.

When he got to his Heaven he saw his God and asked indignantly: “Why did you let me drown down there?”

God sighed: “I sent you three boats,” he replied “and you refused them all. You’ve really got to do something to help yourself”.

This story resonates with me because I take the view that employees must show some accountability in the workplace.

The received wisdom is that employers must be good employers (no issue with that). They must motivate and engage their staff (no issue with that either). I do not accept however, the urban myth that seems to be universally accepted that employees leave bad managers. In my view that’s rather lazy and certainly inaccurate thinking. Sometimes employees leave bad managers, sure. But not always, not by a long chalk.

This “truth” that is propounded makes for an impossible task for employers. Some employees will expect to “be motivated” and blame the manager if they’re not. That’s ridiculous.

We can only live our own lives. We can’t live other peoples.

In employment terms that means that managers can only do what they can do to motivate, engage, challenge and develop employees. I’m not advocating any abdication of responsibility by the employer. BUT – I would like to see more employees stepping up to the mark and not being so passive in their expectations. And they are. We seem to have a substantial number in the workforce who are like baby birds – beaks open, expecting to receive, one way street stuff.

Not in my book. Employee engagement is an active process and both parties need to contribute. After all, as the great Dorothy Parker once wrote:”You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think”.

Start by recruiting the right people (follow the link to find out how) and you’re well on the way, but there are lots of other things you can do to foster active participation by your employee.

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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2018 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.

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