I just saw a headline called How Coronavirus Gripped the World. I didn’t read it because I have a strong personal belief about how and why this is happening. And, it’s the same reason why employee engagement numbers are still in the gutter globally.
The reason? Fear.
Fear is a debilitating emotion. Irrational fear does not keep you safe, it immobilizes you and paralyzes you into inaction. Is fear ever a good thing? Yes, rational fear is intended to keep us safe. You are probably familiar with the fight-or-flight response. When we feel threatened, physiology kicks in to protect us because we are hardwired for self-preservation.
Unfortunately, we may also feel a similar response to non-threatening situations. Has the media portrayed this virus as a threatening situation? Yes, it has. And is it gripping the world? Yes, it is. People are hoarding water and toilet paper, wearing masks, self-quarantining, and cancelling much-needed vacations.
I believe the same thing is happening in the employee engagement space. Do we have a ‘situation’ on our hands with massive levels of global disengagement? Yes, we do. And why isn’t is improving? I believe, in part, due to fear – that debilitating emotion. Many CEOs have said to me, “Jill, I can’t stand up and admit that our culture is not where it needs to be.” Why? Fear. Fear of employees thinking that admitting this is a testament to their lack of leadership.
JILL, WHAT CAN I DO? If you have a CEO who is afraid of embarking on an employee engagement journey, let them know that it is not their fault. It doesn’t matter how you got to the place you currently are, it matters that you acknowledge it and fix it. Remind him or her that employees are not looking to place blame – they are looking to work in an environment that they cannot imagine leaving. Step one is an acknowledgement on behalf of the senior-most leader that things are not where they need to be, but together, we are going to fix it. Then, you put your action plan in place to improve. Your life is a choice, my friends. Are you going to play big or play small? Start the conversation with your CEO – live courageously.