I came across this research from the Ashridge at Hult International Business School showing that employee engagement isn't a binary thing, it's more of a spectrum, or 'shades of grey' as they put it.
The researchers found that employee engagement could be characterised into 4 zones:
- The Zone of Contentment. A positive team climate but without dynamism and proactivity
- The Zone of Disengagement. A negative team climate, team members ‘firefight’ and wait to be told what to do rather than proactively finding solutions
- The Zone of Pseudo-Engagement. Teams appear highly engaged but have low levels of trust and are self-serving
- The Zone of Engagement. A positive team climate with proactive and fun, solution-focused team with high levels of trust and support.
According to the study, the factors that lead to high levels of employee engagement at work are :
- Challenging and varied work
- Working with trusted colleagues and
- Having a team leader who is trusted and leads by example
They probably won't really come as a surprise to most people
The interesting thing for was the 'Zone of Pseudo-Engagement' where team members played the system to serve their own needs while giving management the (false) illusion they were engaged. According to the researchers this behaviour was likely to be rewarded with bonuses and promotions. In turn this leads to the disenfranchisement of other employees who see no point in teamwork as they know certain individuals will claim all of the glory.
Depressingly, I imagine this is be a self-perpuating behaviour.
The paper cites this as prevalent in the Healthcare sector but I wonder about its pervasion in the IT sector.