Beyond The Nonsense of Employee Engagement: What Truly Calls Forth ‘Engagement’ and Generates High Performance?

What Occurred Over The Last Week

It occurs to me that I have not been well for at least a week.  Almost every night for at least the seven days my sleep has been fitful and I have been luck when I have been able to get 3 – 4 hours of interrupted sleep. Some nights I have slept downstairs so as not to disturb my wife.

I ate one light meal on Monday. I ate one light meal on Tuesday. I ate one normal meal on Wednesday as I was really hungry. Shortly thereafter I found myself in the bathroom throwing up. I ate a light meal on Thursday. And I ate nothing on Friday lunchtime even though I was hungry and my two colleagues did their very best to persuade me to eat something!

In amidst all of this: I turned up at client sites to join my colleagues and do the work that was necessary; accepted the responsibility for generating the structure and writing most of the final presentation deck (40+slides); worked at least 8 hours  a day whilst often in pain or just uncomfortable; and sat amongst my colleagues on Friday whilst the three of us finalised and delivered the final presentation to our client.  Once it was all finished, I told one of my colleagues that I was looking forward to going home, eating something, and resting.

Why did I not chose the easier option of just calling in sick?  In fact, my wife seeing my state encouraged me to take care of my health: phone in sick, visit the doctor, rest-recover and then get back to work.

Please notice that nobody had to devise mechanisms (rewards and punishments) or engage in propaganda (empty misleading talk in tune with most marketing communications) to get me motivated and engaged.  I did not do what I did because of fear of punishment. I did not do what I did because of money – bonus. I did not do what I did because someone was call me onto the stage and say great words about me and hand me trinkets.

Why Did I Do What I Did?

I did what I did because it was never an option to let my friend and team leader (Richard Hornby) down!  I knew that there is nobody else (with the appropriate skills) available to take over that work that is my domain – except for Richard. And I knew that Richard was already overstretched due to working on multiple engagements. I did what I did out of love:

“What we will do for love will always be far more powerful than what we will do for money. What we can do together will always be far greater than what we can do alone.”  Pavithra Mehta

Money, no amount of money, can buy genuine care-love-meaning-community. And that is what most, or at least many, of us yearn for, live for, and ultimately allows us to face death.  Interestingly, what Richard, Matthew and I were able to do together, and indeed did together as one team, was more than what each of us did alone.  This became clear when we put our presentation together from our individual pieces, and took what did not work and reworked it (by contributing, listening, debating, building on one another’s insights-contributions) and ended up with a great presentation: a sentiment share by us and our client.

Please notice that I did not need anybody to preach to me on the value of social, or collaboration. Nor did I need people to provide me with social/collaboration tools.  Indeed, I did not use any.  Email and the phone were sufficient to keep in touch with my colleagues and do that which was necessary.

The Poverty of The Workplace

It occurs to me that the workplace is a place of poverty.  What kind of poverty?  A poverty of relationships of genuine caring (for one another as fellow human beings), mutual respect, and collaboration.  A poverty of that which calls forth the very best of us: beautiful workplaces, meaningful work, climate of solidarity, and a context of love.

Am I alone in this? Look into yourself, look into those whom you know, and answer the questions for yourself:

  • would you prefer to work in a beautiful environment or an ugly even bland environment?
  • would you prefer to work in an environment of love or one of fear?
  • would you prefer to do work that shows up as meaningful work or meaningless work?
  • would you prefer to be enmeshed in caring-respectful-collaborative relationships or find yourself enmeshed in relationships of blame-judgement-competition?

Ask yourself what you want to have inscribed on your headstone? “Here lived someone who was loved and loved others, one that made a contribution, touched lives, left behind a better world.” Or would you prefer “Here lies a person who spent their days and their life doing meaningless work in bland/ugly environments full of people who did not care for one another….”?

An Invitation

I share with you two quotes which show up as worth reflecting on:

“What you do today is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.” Unknown

“Living life without making a difference is to be amongst the living dead.” Ron Travisano

I invite you to put love into your relationships, into the workplace, and into the world.  I promise you that if you do so then you will enrich existence: yours (as lived-experienced) and all whom you touch.  How do I know?  Because amidst all the pain that I experienced over the last week, my existence was also rich: all that I was doing was doing for my friend who was counting on me.

If you find that which I write her speaking to you then I invite you to check out this blog.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

5 thoughts on “Beyond The Nonsense of Employee Engagement: What Truly Calls Forth ‘Engagement’ and Generates High Performance?”

  1. Execelent post Maz! Reflecting on what you wrote, when a workplace or organization suffers “poverty of relationships of genuine caring”, more often than not, this poverty is the result of behaviors displayed by their leaders at all levels (i.e. unwillingness to be vulnerable within their group, promoting artificial harmony, giving ambiguous vision or direction, acceptance of low standards, pulling rank just build their status and ego, etc). Still today, in this time and age where transparency is of the utmost importance, many leaders don’t get that by being human, acknowledging and sharing our own vulnerabilities, is the only way for establishing trust in any relationship, including those relationships in a team context and workplace.

    Only when you foster and nurture trust, employees know that you care for them and feel connected without concerns for ulterior outcomes, and this results in an greater sense of unity and enhanced performance working towards a common goal, which ultimately drives the success of the organization.


    1. Hello Sonia,
      First, I thank you for your kindness and for stopping by and sharing your perspective on the matter. I hope all is great with you.

      As I listen to that which you share I am struck by this thought: we are all in a dance with one another. So let’s take leaders and ask some questions. Can leaders exist without followers? Who/what constitutes leaders? It occurs to me that for a leader to show there must be followers; the followers consent to and thus in their consenting create a leader. No followers, no leader. Is it not that simple?

      If it is that simple then there is an uncomfortable ‘truth’ that many of us resist. You and i are responsible for the leaders that lead and their style of leadership. Do we not have a choice in the matter? If we do not like the style of leadership do you/i not have a choice? The choice to leave, go and ally ourselves with the type of leadership that calls to us, even to step up and lead – to embody the type of leadership that calls to us.

      To paraphrase Sartre, to point the finger at leaders and wait for them to change their leadership is to show up and operate from bad faith. Why? Because in so doing we are denying and actively misrepresenting the kind of being that you/i are. What kind of being is that? The being that takes a stand on being. What kind of being is that? The one that always has choice in the matter of how he/she lives her life.

      Which is my way of saying i am responsible for the poverty of relationships. And taking this as a stand, rather than ‘truth’, you and i can start with ourselves: our way of showing up at work, our way of relating to our fellow human beings, our poverty of relating and relationships, our style of managing …..

      At your service / with my love


      1. Maz, I couldn’t agree with you more! You are absolutely right that it is up to us – the individual – we are solely responsible of our own actions to get rid off the poverty of relationships…if we want a life and a work experience to be as productive, connected and meaningful as it could be, we need to live by our core values and by doing so, our deeds and behaviors are the beacon that shine thru the poverty, guiding peers others despite our individual circumstances.

        Thank you very much for sharing your insights and deept thoughts… looking forward to your next post!

        Sonia =)


  2. Maz,
    First of all, as someone I would consider a friend, I hope that you are feeling better.

    Secondly, I absolutely agree that when we care about what we do then we give ourselves the opportunity to grow to love something and through that can produce and accomplish extraordinary things with immeasurable benefits to our well-being as well as others.

    I congratulate you on your endurance over the last week but know that it mattered to you and made a difference to others.

    All the best,



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