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3. Employee Engagement Creates Iatrogenic Disengagement – Adding More

Stop with discretionary effort and making engagement something extra or more.

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This is the third post in a series on iatrogenic disengagement. Iatrogenic disengagement occurs when our efforts at employee engagement fail and cause disengagement. Read the first post here and read the second post here.

We may be causing disengagement when we keep asking or telling employees to do more or do extra. We may also be causing disengagement when we view employee engagement as something added or extra to what we are already doing at work.

Cure: The cure is to begin engagement by seeing what we can end or stop doing. To look at what we may be able to subtract rather than add. To ensure that engagement is not another program, rather it is integrated into all the facets of how we work, manage and lead. We must create space and room for engagement by eliminating, ending, subtracting, and reducing.

David Zinger Employee Engagement Speaker


David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who continues to focus intently on the small, simple, and significant things we can do to enhance employee engagement.

Employee Engagement: 3 Lessons from Newfoundland Icebergs

Encountering and engaging with icebergs

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Newfoundland Iceberg

I came to Newfoundland to do a session on employee engagement for Memorial University. My wife and I decided to stay for 20 days travelling around the province. This province is a Canadian gem.

It is iceberg season and I have enjoyed driving along the coast and spotting them and especially enjoyed taking a boat out and circling a large one south of St John’s. I find it very ironic after a very long Canadian winter that I would be drawn in by these frozen white magnificent structures slowly floating along the coast. I know I am not alone in the fascination and it has been intriguing to watch so many Newfoundland men pull up in their pick up trucks with a Tim Horton’s coffee and binoculars to stare out at these  white monoliths. Their size and stillness are so captivating. Even as I write this post in Fogo I can’t help but look up every 2 minutes to visually connect with two icebergs directly in front of me.

Iceberg watching has made me realize that often in work and engagement we don’t take enough time to just stop and watch and we fail to realize how much is below the surface.

Three lessons I will leave with from the icebergs around Newfoundland are to:

  1. find more stillness in movement
  2. simply stop and look and keep an open fascination with what is right in front of me
  3. keep acknowledging how much is below the surface of whatever or whoever we encounter

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert from Manitoba who fell in love with the province of Newfoundland.


2. Employee Engagement: Creating Iatrogenic Disengagement – Creepy Interventions

Don’t be creepy if you want to create fuller employee engagement

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Creepy Employee Engagement

This is the second post in a series on iatrogenic disengagement. Iatrogenic disengagement occurs when our efforts at employee engagement fail and cause disengagement. Read the first post here.

Creepy employee engagement approaches occur when they are inauthentic or manipulative. Perhaps the leader or manager seems to be saying and doing the right things but something just does not feel right. I believe our social brain is wired to detect creepy through our spindle cells and mirror neurons. For example, a manager learns that strength based conversations have a high probability to reduce employee disengagement. He or she endeavours to hold these conversations with staff but they seem so out of character and feel manipulative. This “creepiness” will cause disengagement rather than reduce it.

Cure: The cure is to ensure all employee engagement efforts are based on caring and focused on the benefits for all. Our actions, conversations and interventions must be respectful and human. It can be helpful to be skeptical but counterproductive to be cynical.  Let’s stive for “real” employee engagement efforts that make a difference for everyone.

David Zinger Employee Engagement Speaker


David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who abhors creepy approaches at work.

1. Employee Engagement: Creating Iatrogenic Disengagement – Anonymous Employees

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

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Wellbeing Symbol Flipped

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?

David Zinger Employee Engagement Speaker Testimonial


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

David Zinger’s 1500 Blog Posts on Employee Engagement (eBook)

Everything you always wanted to know about employee engagement but were afraid to ask

Eh List Cover

Here is an eBook listing all the posts I have written on employee engagement. If you open the eBook in your browser you can click on any title and it will take you right to the post.  If you had  a weekly newsletter on engagement where you work you could use a new post every week for 30 years!

To begin reading click on the cover above or click here.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who loves to write about employee engagement.

Employee Engagement Saskatchewan Style

Coming back to Saskatchewan

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Flag of Saskatchewan

I look forward to returning home to Saskatchewan near the end of April to conduct two sessions on engagement  in both Regina and Saskatoon. There is a lunch session on employee engagement and an afternoon session on engaged well being. I am doing this in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Association of Human Resource Professionals (SAHRP). I will be in Regina on Monday April 28th  and Saskatoon on Tuesday April 29th. Here is a 1 minute 42 second invite/introduction to what we will focus on. I look forward to you joining me.

David Zinger Engage SK from David Zinger on Vimeo.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who was born in Regina, lived in Saskatoon, and never stopped being a Saskatchewan Roughriders fan.

Employee Engagement is Not About Great or Amazing Work or Workplaces

Have a ball at work by doing good work well with others every day.

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The Ball of Employee Engagement

I have sharpened my focus on engagement in 2014 to: Good work done well with others every day. I believe this is both attainable and sustainable while also being a big challenge. What I too often see is the cheerleaders of engagement trying to lead us on to great and amazing work and workplaces. Seldom do I find a great place to work being great for everyone. And even though I have occasional amazing days at work what is truly amazing to me is that I have hundreds of good days. Don’t get me wrong. I love great and amazing work. It thrills me when I see it or experience it myself. Yet I think that great and amazing work is the occasional byproduct of good work done well with others every day. I would trade 1 great day for 10 good days anytime! I don’t need hype or hyperbole when I work, I just need to know my work is good, that I am well because of it, and I can sustain it day after day.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker, expert, and consultant committed to making engagement both simple and real.

The 8 Word Definition of Employee Engagement

Employee engagement in 8 words.

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David Zinger Engage

Good work, done well, with others, every day.

David Zinger is an employee engagement expert striving for lean, simple, and significant approaches to employee engagement.

Employee Engagement Through People Artistry

A People Artistry Tidbit

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Peoplt Artistry at Work Book Cover

I had a wonderful conversation with the latest reader of People Artistry at Work. He just retired this year as the Assistant Superintendent of a very large school division. He believed the book was a fine leadership book and that it summed up his approach to successful leadership.

He stated, “it is amazing what we can accomplish and achieve together when we recognize and value people even if they initially lack skills.” Through our people artistry we empower, we build capacity and as leaders we never lose sight of the fact that we are only as good as the people we lead. We need to recognize all employees so they recognize their own strengths, gifts, challenges, and contributions.

To learn more about this $10 book or to order people artistry for all you leaders visit:

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert.

Making the real definition of employee engagement more real

Making it real

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Real Zing Box

When I wrote the original definition of real employee engagement, I was wrong. I usually am wrong about 50% of the time but being wrong promotes learning and revisions so being open to being wrong feels quite right to me.

I recently wrote the real definition of employee engagement:

Good work, done well, with others, on a daily basis.

I loved the down-to-earth elegant simplicity of the definition but I forgot something. Supposedly Albert Einstein said, make things as simple as possible but no simpler. I think I was too simple with the first definition. I had neglected the first principle of my 10 principles of engagement, first composed in January of 2008 and revised  in 2010. The first principle stated:

Employee engagement is specific. We cannot sustain engagement all the time and everywhere. When we talk about engagement we need to ask: Who is engaged, with what,  for how long, and for what purpose?

I now believe the new real definition of employee engagement must add:

Good work, done well, with others, on a daily basis to …

You need to complete the “to …” What result is it that you seek from engagement? This could range from safety and wellbeing to profits, cost reductions, or lean processes. Ensure your engagement work has a direction.

For example, I was working with a group on employee engagement and customer experience. As I thought about the real definition of engagement for their purposes, I added:

Good work, done well, with others, on a daily basis to enrich the customer and employee experience.

This definition offered focus and direction to engagement and offered a specific purpose to the engagement work.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert on his way to a better way of working with work.

A review of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

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I enjoyed Greg McKeown’s new book on Essentialism.  To be effective with the small, simple, significant, and sustainable approach to employee engagement we must focus our efforts and time on the essentials.

McKeown had a lot of fine points including the discernment and the unimportance of practically everything. His four E’s of essentialism encompass: essence, explore, eliminate, and execute. The essentialist start small and gets big results while celebrating small acts of progress. Are you doing that with your employee engagement programs and initiatives?

Here is a quotation from the book on only doing what is essential:

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.

My quibble with this book on essentialism was the length of about 250 pages. I believe our books on engagement need to be more essential while also being briefer. I encourage you to read the book but only focus on the essential sections!

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who encourages all of us involved in employee engagement to be more essential in how we focus on engagement and how we work.

Is Employee Engagement a Threat or a Thread?

Are we creating iatrogenic disengagement?

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Employee engagement may threaten the established ways of working when we fully engage employees and stop stifling  voice, identity, and innovation. I believe the fresher ways of working produce both fear and threat for many leaders and managers. I think conducting anonymous surveys suggest that engagement is seen as a threat in the organization. I have always believed that disengagement should not be a punishable offense but rather a trigger for a conversation about work. How can it trigger a conversation if we don’t know who is saying what?  If leaders and managers really don’t know who is saying what and have to rely on a survey to get some aggregate data I think they need to be more engaged with employees.

It seems to me engagement must be threatening if the only way we believe employees will tell us the truth is if we make their responses anonymous – - – yet being anonymous inside an organization is certainly one of the contributors to feeling disengaged from the organization.  In medicine this is termed iatrogenesis – the illness is caused by the treatment. I think in many circumstance, our anonymous surveys are causing iatrogenic disengagement.

Engagement can be a thread that sews work, management, and leadership together. It changes how we work as we operate more from invitation, connection, conversation, trust, value-congruence, etc. So let’s take the thread of engagement and use it to stitch together the open wounds of threat in our organizations and work together so work will work for everyone. If we do this, I sincerely believe work can be healing and make us well.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who firmly believe that for work to be sustainable it must make us well.

Watch the Watch: A Big Disruption in Employee Engagement?

Stop telling time and start telling engagement: Employee Engagement can change in a minute.

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Engage the Revolution no click

As you watch your watch will your watch be watching you?

Employee engagement is moving to real time very rapidly. The antiquated idea of an annual, or heaven forbid a bi-annual, survey of employee engagement it becoming ludicrous. We need real time measures that also offer transparency while giving the most important person data on their engagement — the employee!

We all know our engagement probably changes from about six to sixty times a day. So how can we enter the stream of engagement as opposed to using an auger of measurement drilling into a frozen bi-annual survey of attitudes? I just watched the short video on android watches and believe this is the future of engagement at many levels (it may be an apple watch too).

With the new watches hitting the market combined with our needs and some programming, we can monitor engagement, we can connect, and we can use the watch to trigger engaging actions. The limiting factor of how this tool could be used for engagement may be our own limited thinking.

Get ready for a watch that can tell time but can also tell energy and engagement and connection. It is also a watch that will listen to us!

A few years back I predicted this would occur by 2020. I was far too conservative. This will occur during 2014 and be refined and in full usage with a number of individuals and some organizations by 2015.

So go ahead and watch this watch video and start thinking about how you could use this tool at work for engagement and get busy with your IT department to help your organization go mobile with engagement and really be fully engaged in 2020!

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who has always worn a watch and he is now looking for a watch that he can engage with while also being a watch that will engage him.

The Real Definition of Employee Engagement

Let make it simple!

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Real Zing Box

We have too much jargon at work in employee engagement. So here is my real definition of employee engagement:

Good work, done well, with others, on a daily basis.

Enough said.

David Zinger is a leading employee engagement speaker and expert who strives to make employee engagement real.

People Artistry at Work Begins to Make Its Way Around the World

My friends at Deed send out a tweet and picture of People Artistry at Work:

People Artistry at Work: The Ennoblement Imperative

New Book: People Artistry at Work: The Ennoblement Imperative (50 pages)

Peoplt Artistry at Work Book Cover

We are not advocating for the nobility of entitlement or title but rather the nobility of people working together with a deepening of the authentic artistry that is possible in all work and relationships. ~ The opening line from People Artistry at Work: The Ennoblement Imperative  by Peter W. Hart and David Zinger

I am pleased to offer you this slim and  beautiful 50 page high quality book to improve recognition and engagement where you work. The book is printed on high quality glossy paper and is rich with beautiful illustrations. Yet, the true beauty of this book is to draw our your People Artistry at work to bring out the best in your people and your organization. Most readers have already requested bulk orders to get everyone in their organization on the same page with recognition and engagement!

People Artistry was co-authored with Peter W. Hart from Rideau Recognition and the paintings we used to illustrate the book are all originals from Peter.

Here are the 10 practices from the book:

  1. Gift
  2. See
  3. Inspire
  4. Give
  5. Dance
  6. Ensure
  7. Evolve
  8. Learn
  9. Capture
  10. Practice

To open a one page PDF owner’s guide for the book click on the following link: People Artistry an Owner’s Guide.

Early readers told us this is more than a book on recognition and engagement, it is a gift. They went beyond reading the book to buying copies for other leaders, managers, supervisors, and employees at work. It is a tremendous value at $9.95 and includes a beautiful envelope if we mail it to you or if you want to give it to others as a gift. If you order multiple copies we will send you multiple envelopes, just ensure you email me directly for bulk orders.

Chris Bailey sent us a picture when he received the book a few weeks ago saying “It’s cold outside but this book is warming my soul. Love it. Thanks David Zinger.” He added “As soon as I start at my next organization, I’m buying copies for all my staff.”

People Artistry Comment from Chris Bailey

For more information or to order multiple copies as a gift of recognition where you workContact David Zinger at

The price is in Canadian dollars and includes all shipping, handling, and taxes (ensure you use the arrow on the PayPal price link below to get the right price category for your location:

  • Canada  $16.00
  • United States $18.00
  • International $20.00


400 Cartoons on Employee Engagement

Cartoonist, digital designer, and friend, John Junson, has completed four hundred cartoons on employee engagement on the 6300 member Employee Engagement Network. He literally adds a huge burst of color to work and engagement. John just keeps getting better and better. Thanks for showing us the lighter side of work John!

Today At Work 400

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who founded and hosts the 6200 member Employee Engagement Network.

Enhancing Employee Engagement Recognition – People Artistry: The Ennoblement Imperative

People Artistry at Work: The Ennoblement Imperative will be released on March 11th.

People Artistry Book Cover

I am excited by next week’s release of People Artistry at Work: The Ennoblement Imperative. Peter Hart from Rideau in Montreal and I wrote this book and Peter’s art contributes to this being a beautiful little book. This is my third book and I know this small little gem will enhance your ability to draw the best out from others at work.

We offer you 10 practices and 8 tools and if you order the book from myself or bulk order the book from Rideau it will arrive in a beautiful custom envelope. We have had some early readers of the book and were amazed that almost every one of them upon reading decided to buy a copy for all the leaders and managers where they work.

They loved the size and the price of just $9.95! They also told us the book was more than a book, it was a gift. Watch for the formal launch on March 11th.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and employee engagement expert dedicated to improving engagement for all.

Employee Engagement: How to use gamification to climb Mount Everest (almost).

Being game for work and wellbeing

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Year of Points button

I have themed 2014 as a year of points. I am further extending my work on using the principles and practices of gamification for work and wellbeing. In a future post, I will provide an update of the daily game board I use to plan and track my time and performance to enhance  work and wellbeing.

For this post I want to outline a three week gamification of fitness. The Winnipeg Winter Club where I workout has a mean looking machine called Jacob’s Ladder. It is like a 40 degree angled treadmill with the tread being replaced by ladder rungs. It is exhausting and you feel a bit like Sisyphus as you climb a ladder and get nowhere, but it is a great workout. The first time I tried the ladder back in January I could only do a couple of minutes before being fatigued.

For the month of February my fitness club challenged members to climb 29, 029 feet, or the equivalent of the elevation of Mount Everest on Jacob’s Ladder. I decided this was a game, even at fifty-nine years of age, I wanted to play. I knew to be successful I needed to gamify the process and was ultimately successful in taking just twenty days from the time I started to making it to the summit.

Here was how I approached the task based on gamification ideas and practices:

Compelling narrative. I was not climbing a ladder I was participating in an adventure to get to the top of Everest. A strong compelling narrative often keeps people glued to a movie or a game. In this case, I kept imaging I was getting to the top of Everest. I wasn’t delusional but it made climbing the steps more fun.

Mount Everest

Being social. I didn’t climb with someone else but my daughter, Katharine, was my fitness buddy in another challenge at the club. Her support and knowing I was scoring points for us as a team was very helpful. I used almost daily updates on social media to report on my progress to make myself accountable to people who follow me and to gather energy and encouragement from their support. And of course, I kept broadcasting my success to my wife and sons.

Making progress. Progress is engaging while setback are disengaging. I did not wait until I arrived at the “summit” to celebrate. I printed out a Wikipedia list of all the mountain peaks around the world so I had the progress of reaching the elevation of over 1000 peaks along the way. Also I scored 10 points for a bigger fitness competition each day I completed ten or more minutes on the ladder.

Meaningful. This game was meaningful to me. For gamification to work and be sustainable the game must be meaningful to the player. Virtually climbing Mount Everest would not be either compelling or meaningful to many people but as someone who lived their whole life on the prairies it had always been a whimsical desire to climb the world’s tallest peak. Given everything else in my life this was about as close as I was going to get to achieving that desire.

Novelty. From one perspective I was just climbing a ladder to nowhere and that can be very fatiguing and boring. I enhanced novelty in the game by working at different paces and with different lengths of climbing. One day I climbed for 28 minutes and covered 1816 feet — this climb was the equivalent of climbing the CN Tower in Toronto (it must have been a foggy day as the view on Jacob’s Ladder never seemed to actually change).

Keeping track. I used a notebook to keep track of time, steps, and speed. Monitoring the climb with the different numbers derived was motivating while keeping me on track and preventing a fitness goal derailment.

Celebrate. I did celebrate success of the goal achieved by opening a small bottle of bubbly champagne and toasting the feat with Jeff, the fitness director, in a couple of small paper cone cups. We should always make time to celebrate progress as this helps to mentally install all the benefits of our accomplishments.

Benefits beyond the game. I like games that are immersions rather than diversions. By this I mean the game has real world benefits and is not merely a distraction from work and life. This game increased my fitness, helped me shed about 10 pounds, and feel more energized each day.

The game as a booster rather than an end in itself. Sometimes the trouble with gamification is that it begins to lose its impact over time. Now that I was successful will this mean I stop using the ladder and let my fitness entropy to previous levels. To overcome this I am now planning to climb the equivalent of the 7 summits of the world over the next year. It won’t be as intensive as the last month but it will make the progress and fitness sustainable over a long period of time. As we begin to approach the end of a helpful and positive gamification of work or wellbeing it is quite helpful to ask ourselves: what come’s next? Just because the game ended doesn’t mean the practice and benefits should also end.

Are you game? How can you integrate the practices outline above into your own work and wellbeing to foster greater engagement in achieving a result that matters to you or your work group?

Many small steps are one giant step. In summary it was 29,029 small steps for David and one giant step for the application of gamification to better work and wellbeing.

David Zinger Employee Engagement Speaker

David Zinger is a Canadian employee engagement speaker and expert who believes in the benefits of gamification as a powerful tool for greater engagement.