Every man for himself

I have been on a learning journey for the last two months. It’s been nothing like cruising in the Caribbean, more like a trek through dark jungles. By the way, I apologize for not keeping you posted about my progress or whereabouts.

On the other hand, I return after discovering four distinctive levels of employee engagement…

This whole journey began with separate requests from three very different organizations, located in Sweden, US and United Kingdom. Their senior management team’s all wanted to better understand what was driving their employee engagement, and to learn how their company or entity could reach the next level.

Let me first draw your attention to group A. This is a sales and marketing department with close to 50 employees. When you get this snapshot of their employee survey results, try to picture the faces of different employees. What do their expressions really say? What kind of organizational culture do you think they represent? What’s the mood?

First we will focus on employee survey items where group A reported higher favorable scores than average for the Group. These are their best relative results.

“I actively develop myself for the future (+ 91 %).”
“I am willing to put in a great deal of effort beyond what is expected of me (+ 98 %).”
“I can influence my work situation (+ 85 %).”
“I have a clear understanding of how my role contributes to my business entity’s goals and objectives (+ 96 %).”
“I am satisfied with the physical environment at my business entity (+ 74 %).”
“I am encouraged to come up with new and better ways of doing things (+ 77 %).”
“I have the authority to take actions that are needed to ensure good customer service and quality (+ 81 %).”
“My ideas and suggestions count (+ 74%).”

What’s your first impression? Does this group of employees come across as highly committed and a high performing team? No, I don’t think so either.

These are autonomous sales and marketing guys. They have the self-confidence of sharks. They’re only looking out for number one. It’s all about me, me, ME.


Yet there’s something desperate about this snapshot. It’s like watching a group of young men hanging on a street corner. While you can spot the assertiveness and bravado, there is something missing. This is no longer a team.

Let’s look at the survey items where this group reported much lower favorable scores than average for the Group.

“My business entity provides me with opportunities for learning and development (+ 39 %).”
“My work group/team is free from conflicts that negatively impact our work (+ 40 %).”
“I have the training I need to do my job effectively (+ 43 %).”
“The workload in my job is manageable (+ 43 %).”
“My business entity promotes activities and choices that improve employee health and well-being (+ 45 %).”
“It is easy to get things done in my work group/team (+ 47 %).”
“I receive timely information relation to my work (+ 43 %).”
“My immediate supervisor/manager is an outstanding leader (+ 43 %).”

When I reported my observations to a member of the executive team, I could hardly wait to learn more about the background. This department with close to 50 employees had been riddled by conflicts and strife for years. Their manager had behaved in very erratic and impetuous way, often screaming at people and accusing them of disloyalty.

Over the course of a few years, this team had fallen apart at the seams. Shortly after the survey results came in the manager was finally fired.

Share your thoughts about this department. How would you go about re-building this group of employees into a workgroup? Where would you begin in re-building confidence and trust, involvement and employee engagement?

4 thoughts on “Every man for himself

  1. I feel invited to post a comment.
    In first moment I would draw a map of people. What is their world-view, what are their drivers? Maybe they are in closed position to change. So in my opinion taking them to long change will be costly and painful. There is room for momentum to make surge cut. New manager should have vision of new pattern for this team and rebuild team on Authority base and on Achivements as revard.


  2. Being in sales these people have had the benefit of abundantly clear goals. That, and being away from the office most of the time, makes sales people endure autocratic management that most people would loathe. They may have been able to deliver decent results with classic transactional leadership (show me sales and I’ll show you money; make mistakes and I’ll make you wish you were never born).
    The problem is that there is no growth in that kind of environment. People do not grow and synergies do not happen. Like a diet of potatoes and water allows you to stay alive but not to prosper.
    I think trust should be the first step towards transactional leadership and an environment where people help each other.

  3. Pingback: En spännande resa in i engagement » HRstream.se

  4. Pingback: En spännande resa in i engagement - Netsurvey

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