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Employee Engagement: 13 Employee Engagement Heartbreaks

Cleaning out 13 clogged arteries in employee engagement

Sheriff_Zinger5.1 (2)

Umair Hague wrote an intriguing post on the Harvard Business Review blog entitled: How to Have a Year That Matters. He offered a number of provocative questions, including: Why are you here? What do you want?  Who’s on your side? What’s it worth?

The question that caused me to pause was, what breaks your heart?

Hague stated:

Follow your passion, we’re often told. But how do you find your passion? Let me put it another way: what is it that breaks your heart about the world? It’s there that you begin to find what moves you. If you want to find your passion, surrender to your heartbreak. Your heartbreak points towards a truer north — and it’s the difficult journey towards it that is, in the truest sense, no mere passing idyllic infatuation, but enduring, tempestuous passion.

This made me think about what breaks my heart about employee engagement.

Here are 13 of my employee engagement heart breakers:

  1. Employees who experience work as sheer drudgery.
  2. Employees who are totally drained at the end of the day and have nothing left for their family.
  3. Parents who complain day after day about their work in front of their children and believe they are victims.
  4. That any employee, in any organization, would feel invisible and go unrecognized.
  5. The amount of productivity and performance that drains out of organizations because of disengagement.
  6. That we probably spend more money on employee engagement surveys than actually improving employee engagement.
  7. That employees and organizations believe that for honesty to occur surveys must be anonymous.
  8. That anyone would see disengagement as a punishable offence rather than a trigger for a conversation.
  9. Organization who “get” employees to engage rather than let employees engage and believe that there are “rules” to follow.
  10. When engagement is seen merely as sucking out more discretionary effort from overtaxed employees.
  11. CEO’s who fail to see they are employees and refer to employees as them or human capital.
  12. A mad dash to quarterly results at the expense of employees or organizational sustainability.
  13. The worry that employee engagement will die as a management fad rather than to truly improve how we work, manage and lead.

What breaks your heart in regards to work, management, leadership, and employee engagement?

Employee engagement works when it works for the benefit of all and does not cause heartburn or heartache. I know my heart breakers mean that I am working in the area that I need to be working in and I have found or created my heartfelt calling to improve the world of work.

Zinger Associates

David Zinger is an employee engagement expert who is willing to have his heart broken and also willing to develop and deliver on strong approaches to create hearty employee engagement for the benefit of all.



  1. sandy wilkie says:

    Insecure leaders; those who feel unable to let their employees ‘fly’ or feel the need to step in to take the credit/glory. Poor leadership breaks engagement.

  2. Craig Price says:

    My heartbreak is that the most senior and the front line staff in an organization see engagement as the top meeting with the bottom. Those organizations need to build systems of engagement that recognize that everyone is an employee to be engaged.

  3. Sandy
    I like ‘grounded” leaders and share your heartbreak about leaders who go beyond being grounded to not letting employee fly. A bit like parents who need to give their children roots and wings, leaders provide some “roots” to the organization but should let employee soar.

  4. Craig: Well said. Top/bottom is not a good metaphor for our work organizations and I like the full awareness and acknowledgement that we are all employees.

  5. You’ve written a wonderful post, David, and I share many of the same heartbreaks with you. It pains me to hear stories of Dilbert-like management that are still practiced by the clueless and/or arrogant. Over the years I’ve learned to preserve my heart and mental health by working with those managers who truly respect the people they work with and strive to continually improve employee and customer engagement.

  6. Great post David. A lot of companies feel they have to offer anonymity when running employee engagement surveys when a truly engaged workforce doesn’t need that comfort blanket.

  7. Thanks for the compliment Steve. It is not only a comfort blanket it is an invisibility cloak that makes employees invisible which is one of the causes of disengagement.

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