Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Employee Engagement?

Mar 09, 2024
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Employee Engagement?

Successful managers understand the value of employee engagement. Studies show that more engaged teams deliver better performance, which, in turn, increases revenues and profits. Moreover, high levels of engagement are associated with improved employee well-being, job satisfaction, and talent retention. The bottom line is that employee engagement is something all organizations are striving to increase.

Organizations that focus too strongly on engagement as an objective in and of itself may miss out on other paths to success. Even more troubling, this preoccupation with boosting employee engagement may lead to adverse outcomes when taken too far.

Adjusting the Focus

Employee engagement should be approached as a means to an end, supporting the goals of improved performance and a more productive workforce. A narrow focus on improving engagement often neglects other areas that may improve a team’s performance. A competitive environment means organizations must continuously adapt and push against the status quo. It can be the case that proud and optimistic employees resist changes and new approaches to their work. When incentivized appropriately, frustrated or dissatisfied employees may be less complacent and more likely to find creative solutions.

As well as missing out on the potential upsides of negative and critical opinions, aggressively cultivating high engagement can also create problems. The potential for employee burnout is the most apparent consequence of persistently driving employee engagement. Studies have found that highly engaged workers struggle with work/life balance, and their health and performance suffer without adequate downtime.

Additionally, high engagement can lead to job-based psychological ownership, where employees see their job as a personal possession to protect and preserve. For certain personality types, this leads to harmful activities like knowledge hiding and territorial behaviour to maintain ownership of their job. The outcome is weaker collaboration and poor performance from individuals and across teams.


A Balanced Approach to Employee Engagement

When it comes to focusing on employee engagement, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Organizations must consider a balanced approach that fosters job satisfaction while creating enough tension to drive performance. Rather than aiming to achieve ever higher engagement scores, believing that performance will follow, organizations should strive to create environments where employee performance thrives.

Employee engagement surveys are invaluable for understanding and improving the work experience. They should be deployed with this end in mind rather than as a benchmark narrowly focused on a final engagement score. The result will be both high performance and high engagement.

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