Engaging behaviour

6 September 2011
Some fads can do quite a lot of harm before they fade away again into the background. Talk of “engaging” colleagues might sound like another of those crazy little ideas that gets picked up by the MD at a fancy conference and then inflicted on everybody back at HQ. But ignore if you can the clunky nature of the word “engagement”. In the context of the workplace, it refers to something that matters a great deal. What is engagement? You know it when you see it. You find it in offices where there is a positive buzz of energy, where there are quite a lot of smiles and laughter, where people come in on time. You don’t get engagement by chance. It is a positive choice made by employees: a matter of reciprocity. Don’t be surprised, if your business is a grumpy, impolite or joyless sort of place, that there is also limited employee engagement there. The mood reflects the way people are treated and what sort of career prospects they feel they have. Some of the talk of “engaging with the internal customer” can be pretty unconvincing and, at its worst, it is frankly dire. But engaging with colleagues really does count – even if no accountant could ever measure it with the usual tools of that trade. Think on. It is time to engage with engagement. ☛ See Ed Worthington, Virgin Holidays, on the dos and don’ts of stakeholder engagement   Back to reality No matter how cheerful you might be coming back to work after a nice summer holiday, the news is enough to wipe that smile off your face. Riots in English cities seemed to take the authorities by surprise. Millions of pounds of damage were done to retail centres, the last thing the struggling economy needed. And in the global financial markets investors swung between panic and false hope, marking down share prices and opting for safety-first investments such as gold and US government bonds. Long-term interest rates in both the UK and US now imply economies that are going to bump along the bottom for years to come. In the rush to find explanations for the unrest among rioting youth, some rejected the idea that the looting was anything other than “criminality pure and simple”. I disagree. Sure: some of the thieving was plain opportunism. Some of the violence was nihilistic. But they are bored. They have little to look forward to. They feel no deep attachment to their community. And they have no inspiring ambitions for the future. The chaos of financial markets and the excesses of certain investment bankers are connected to a riot in Tottenham. Where the young have no hope and see only greed and grabbing behaviour all around them, you can see why they might make the mistake of joining in with the destruction. We need brave and effective leadership at a time like this, in both the political and economic sphere. Nope – can’t see it coming any time soon either.
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