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1. Employee Engagement: Creating Iatrogenic Disengagement – Anonymous Employees

Are you and your organization creating the very disengagement you are trying to solve?

(Reading time = 1 minute 39 seconds)

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In medicine there is a term call iatrogenic illness. Iatrogenesis or iatrogenic effect is preventable harm resulting from medical treatment or advice to patients. For example, you go into a hospital for a minor procedure and leave with a bad infection. According to a wikipedia entry on iatrogenesis:

In the United States an estimated 225,000 deaths per year have iatrogenic causes, with only heart disease and cancer causing more deaths. Causes of iatrogenesis include negative effects of drugs, chance, medical errornegligence, unexamined instrument design, anxiety or annoyance in the physician or treatment provider in relation to medical procedures or treatments, and the adverse effects or interactions of medications.

Although the term iatrogenic originated with the term physician I believe there is iatrogenic disengagement as we try to cure the negative factors of employee engagement with tools, approaches, and methods that may unintentionally create or sow the seeds of disengagement. During the month of May I will outline various sources of disengagement created ironically by our attempt to measure or improve engagement.

Iatrogenic anonymity. Employee engagement is fostered when employees are made visible and we fully hear their voice. Yet our most common measure of engagement is anonymous surveys. We do this to try and get honest feedback yet I think it also communicates the message, we don’t want to know who you are and the organization cannot be trusted to hear your voice. In addition employees may believe that if the organization knows who they are they may be punished for a negative response.

Cure: Be very cautious of using anonymous measures, build safety in the organization so that there is a more transparent voice based on trust where disengagement is not a punishable offence but a trigger for a conversation. Understand that engagement is much more likely where people are visible, appreciated, and recognized. Ask yourself: what would it take have a transparent survey system where all opinions are voiced and respected without fear?

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David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who would like to know who people are.

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