7 Lies My Agency Told Me About Engagement

The federal sector has been sold a false bill of goods when it comes to engagement. We have been confused by an annual multi-question federal employee viewpoint survey that has brainwashed us into believing the following myths about public sector engagement.

Engaged employees work harder
Not necessarily so. They certainly bring more discretionary effort to the job. Engaged workers work smarter, more efficiently and creatively which does not inevitably result in increased work hours.

Engagement is about happiness
I know plenty of federal employees who are happy being retired in place and doing the bare minimum amount of work to get by. Engagement is about whether or not your work matters and you feel like you are making a difference. You can achieve these goals while being unhappy at work.

Engagement is about getting more work out of employees
Engagement is not about pulling more accomplishments out of our colleagues. Engagement is about extracting the greatness already present as employees find their own path of inspiration and meaning in the workplace.

Engagement is a one size fits all proposition
This is where the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government train falls off the rails. Engagement cannot be a top down agency initiative. What engages a 62 year old Baby Boomer may not engage a 24 year old Millennial. What works at the Environmental Protection Agency may not work at the Bureau of Prisons. The best engagement incentives allow each individual to create their own conditions at work that allow them to reach their full potential.

Engagement is something everyone wants
Engagement is optional. Everyone will not find engagement. Some will be comfortable in the disengaged category as 70% of us claim to be fully or partially disengaged.

Disengaged employees eventually leave
Nothing could be further from the truth. According to Aon Hewitt, a human resources and management consulting firm, disengaged workers are some of the most senior and tenured employees in their organizations. They become prisoners in the workplace.

Engagement is based on organizational goals
Engagement is rooted in individuals meeting their own personal goals first within the context of the organization’s objectives.

Engagement is more transformational than transactional. It is not about doing the work but how we do the work. It is the intersection of where our minds, hearts and hands come together in perfect alignment as we see the meaning our work brings to the taxpayers we serve. It is the only place where you will find the unvarnished truth about engagement.

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