Employee Engagement: You Are Not the Boss of Me.

Stop The Blame Drain.

A recent article on employee engagement declared: “Not Enough Employee Engagement? Blame Your Boss.”

Poor drainage. Are you caught in the employee engagement blame drain.

Low IQ. Wally Bock, a blogger I admire very much,  wrote the article at Human Resources IQ. I  hated the title (Wally did not write the title) and liked the article:  Not Enough Employee Engagement? Blame Your Boss.

Training, support, and development. I appreciated how Wally concluded the article:

You increase productivity and employee engagement when you have good supervisors. We’ve known this for decades. But still most companies don’t pay attention. We as organizations need to do a better job of selecting people who are likely to do a good job as supervisors. We need to give them the proper training in supervisory skills and support them in their work. Most importantly, we need to help them develop.

Right on. I can certainly live, thrive, work, and engage with that perspective.

Engagement abdication. When we blame the boss (or anyone else for that matter) we abdicate our personal responsibility for engagement. We place our relationship to work in another person’s hands.

4-year old wisdom. I refuse to do this because even if you manage me, and manage me poorly, I live by the statement of my son when he was 4 years old. He stomped his feet, and defiantly declared: “You’re not the boss of me.”

Don’t blame. I know relationships play a big role in engagement and having a toxic supervisor or manager can certainly have a detrimental impact on employee engagement. But don’t blame. Yes managers and leaders and supervisors are pivotal in engagement but don’t blame them if you are disengaged.

Engaged corrections. And of course, don’t blame yourself or something else. Take a good look at the situation, get some perspective, and determine how you can engage in something to make it better. For example, here are a few quick alternatives:

  • Ensure you have done what you can directly with the boss to improve the situation.
  • Bosses, like employees, need healthy performance management feedback.
  • Hold Crucial Conversations on the facts, your stories, and what you really want.
  • Give the organization helpful information about the situation so that they can address the issue or issues.
  • Make it your pet project to change the boss.
  • Find a way to work around the bad boss.
  • Put energy into getting into another department or workplace.

If you can laugh, you can last. Of course always remember, if you can laugh you can last. Don’t let anyone take your humor from you. It may even be okay in this situation to act like a 4 year old, stomp your feet, and shout: “You’re not the boss of me!”

7 thoughts on “Employee Engagement: You Are Not the Boss of Me.”

  1. Thanks for your kind words on the article, David and, especially for picking up that it was not my title. I think that blaming supervisors can be a form of scapegoating. You blame them and you feel like you’ve solved the problem. But you haven’t.

    The core problem is that most supervisors in most companies are not well-chosen, well-trained, or well-supported. They have very few development opportunities compared with senior management or with “high potentials.” Yet they are the people with the most powerful day-to-day impact on both morale and production.

  2. David and Wally,

    Just to add to your points. Yes, it makes no sense to blame the boss when the core problem is that most supervisors in most companies are not well chosen, trained or supported. My question to you is, can someone advance in their career, without managing people? I have come to the conclusion that no matter how much training and support, some people just are not well equipped to manage people. In sales, the problem is always trying to take the best salespeople and make them sales managers, which rarely works because the skill sets are somewhat different. Is the lack of engagement we see the result of a corporate structural problem?

  3. Keith:

    Yes and no would be my response. I think you have such a good point about structural problems. The old idea that you rise to your level of incompetence. Some people really struggle with people which is tough because an organization is composed of PEOPLE. I like the work of Jane Dutton and others on job crafting to tweak the work for the individual and organization.


  4. Great article. But one thing Zinger – “May it your pet project to change the boss.” This is the first thing marriage counselors tell spouse NOT to do. If trying this is tilting at windmills in a relationship as close as marriage, then to call it fruitless in a workplace relationship is a dramatic understatement. Good advice otherwise, but you have missed the boat on that one.

  5. I am not so sure Richard of course there is a bit of Don Quixote in me. It is an option but not THE option. It is a pet project not something to stake your career on. We can influence and change others…I know this but not everyone. Thanks for your comment.

  6. hi
    sir its nice article blame ing the boss is not good always but the some boss will always criticizes us wit out any mistake in that situation what can v do &how ever we wok hard we wil not get fame in front of boss

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