Keeping the People Report
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E-Letter Volume 20, Summer 2010

In this issue:

Leigh Branham
  • Know The Enemies of Employee Engagement
  • Employee Engagement Enemies List
  • Notes from the Global SHRM Conference
Leigh Branham, Founder,
Keeping the People, Inc
Know The Enemies of Employee Engagement

We don't need another academic study to confirm for us that employee engagement is linked to greater employee productivity, better customer service, higher revenues, and profitability.  There are plenty of such studies already (to see 29 of them, go to and click on Appendices, then Appendix C).  Here's the question I keep asking myself--Why should we spending our energies proving what we intuitively know already?  Instead, if we already know that higher levels of employee engagement are worth striving for, and we are serious about creating a more engaged workforce, it seems to me that we should be focused on:  1. understanding the obstacles to employee engagement, and 2. implementing the practices that increase it.

"Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster," wrote Sun Tsu centuries ago.  If business leaders truly want to fight the battle for employee engagement, then the first sign that they are serious about their commitment is when they begin to acknowledge the enemies of it. When judged by this criterion, we see evidence that many companies are not taking the commitment to building a culture of engagement seriously.

So, as a service to readers, I have created an "employee engagement enemies list" below.  Most of these are based on an analysis of 200,000 engagement survey comments that my co-author, Mark Hirscheld, and I read for our new book--Re-Engage: How America's Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary Times (McGraw-Hill, 2010). 

Realistically, the "enemies" of employee engagement are probably too numerous to list, so I am allowing space for you to write in those that may be particularly pernicious in your organization. To make the checklist more practical and meaningful, think of a specific employee (perhaps yourself) whose level of engagement you would like to see increased.  After checking  the organizational and senior leader issues, enter the employee's name and then check the manager and employee issues that apply based on your view of the employee and his/her manager.

Employee Engagement Enemies List

Check those that apply in your company.


___Negative employer reputation
___Recent loss of customers, revenues/profits
___Employees laid off, job cuts
___Higher employee turnover
___Understaffing leading to manager/employee overwork
___Outdated or inefficient technology
___Lack of efficient systems, process, structures
___Functional or geographic silo-ing
___Bureaucracy, slow decision-making
___Rigid, inflexible policies

Senior Leadership Team:

___Seen as not sufficiently valuing or caring about people
___Unclear or not communicating company direction/vision
___Isolated from employees
___Viewed as dishonest or lacking integrity
___Seen as greedy or focused more on self interest than the welfare of the company
___Seen as leading by intimidation, fear, or coercion
___Set poor example of teamwork
___Not keeping employees informed
___Not listening, not valuing employee input
___Pay not linked to performance

Employee Name:________________________________

Employee's Manager:____________________________

Check issues below that apply to the employee's manager.

___Failure to build trust
___Expectations unclear or not communicated
___Reluctance to give performance feedback, or lacking in this skill
___Failure to delegate or provide challenging/interesting assignments
___Reluctance to provide learning/development opportunities, or lacking in this skill
___Reluctance to recognize employee contribution, or lacking in this skill
___Focused more on self interest than the welfare of the team or organization
___Failure to respect and accept diverse views or other differences
___Insensitive to employees' personal/family challenges and life stressors
___Playing favorites, or treating direct reports unfairly
___Not addressing toxic relationships in teams
___Not keeping employees informed
___Not listening, not valuing employee input
___Believe they have no responsibility for employee engagement
___Bullies or abuses employees


Check issues below that apply to the employee.

___In the wrong job
___Not a good fit with team or company culture
___Lack of effort, work ethic
___Lacking self-confidence
___Easily distracted, impulsive
___Failure to take the initiative
___Afraid of change or risk
___Easily discouraged
___Doesn't accept responsibility/accountability
___Underpaid compared to value of contributions and/or pay received by others in same job and/or industry
___Difficult to deal with (complaining, blaming, argumentative, or similar issues)
___Distracted by personal/family problems
___Passive or waiting to be engaged
___Entitlement mentality
___Victim mentality
___Lacks needed resources, tools, or equipment

There are so many factors that can undermine employee engagement, even a partial list can be intimidating or depressing to contemplate.  That is certainly not my intention; the goal is to help you take inventory of what you're up against so you can begin to focus on challenges and next steps.  Focus only on a few where you can realistically make a difference.  Obviously, a senior leader can control or influence more than a manager can and a manager more than direct reports.  The list also drives home the point that all employees, despite the personal issues they may face, are also responsible for employee engagement--their own.

Whatever your level or role in the organization, I would welcome your comments about the enemies checklist and whether you find it useful.

For suggestions on engagement practices to address the issues you checked, see our new book, Re-Engage, now available through booksellers, at,  and at



Notes from the Global SHRM Conference

More than 11,000 HR professionals attended the Global Conference of the Society for Human Resource Professionals held June 27-30 in San Diego.  There were 11 sessions on employee engagement at the conference, including the one Mark Hirschfeld and I presented--"Navigating the Crosswinds of Employee Engagement"  (PowerPoint deck available for viewing at shows a continuing interest in keeping employees engaged as the recession drags on.  We cautioned our audience about the cynicism that begins to grow among employees when a worthy goal like employee engagement becomes a buzzword, a fad, or a program to be "rolled out"--especially when an engagement survey is not followed up with action to address the key issues.  The best places to work we have studied for the past two years reached that status by concentrating on steadily building cultures of engagement, not by pursuing short-term initiatives or programs.  For more on this topic, see my blog post--"Sick of Hearing About Employee Engagement Yet"? at

Also heard at the SHRM Conference:

Excuse used by the disengaged calling in sick:
"I have a vision problem...I can't see myself coming into work today." (Michael Burchell)

On dealing with conflict with coworkers:
"People can't get your goat if you don't bring your goat to work." (Steve Gilliland)

Mark and I recently received word that Re-Engage was one of the top-selling books at the global SHRM conference.  Our thanks to all who supported the book and attended our session. We enjoyed the time, and look forward to continuing our discussions.

Keeping the People, Inc. helps organizations link employer-of-choice strategies with business strategies, conduct third-party post-exit interviews and surveys, conduct engagement surveys with current employees, and provides the management coaching and training needed to implement those strategies.

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Keeping the People Report
Keeping the People Report

For information about any of the following offerings:

  • Employee Engagement Surveying and Reporting
  • Management Training in Employee Engagement
  • Self-Engagement Workshops for Employees
  • Exit Surveying and Reporting
  • Keynotes and Presentations on Employee Engagement and Retention

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Copyright, Keeping the People, Inc. 2010. Keeping the People Report is written and edited by Leigh Branham.