Skip to main content

Engaged People

If you’ve ever worked with someone engaged, you know what it’s like. Engaged people are dedicated, immersed in their job, and persevering. They can strive for higher performance levels, and they do this relentlessly.

But there’s a dark side to this.

If engaged people lack the resources, both in their jobs and at home, to maintain this level of engagement, they might end up with burnout.

The Job-Demands-Resources Model by Bakker e.a. describes these mechanisms. It is a matter of balance. And the thing is, if the balance is right, a virtuous circle arises. Engaged people will engage in proactive behaviors that will even reinforce the resources they have available to them. These behaviors are learning, job crafting, networking, seeking feedback, …

But people who are in a disbalance, without the possibility to recover, might engage in limiting behaviors like withdrawal. This is a vicious circle.
Burnout is characterized by cynicism, exhaustion, and emotional and cognitive dysfunction. All of these symptoms further undermine someone’s capacity to be proactive.

Should we strive for maximum engagement in terms of the numbers of people who are engaged or the level of engagement?
Well, I would dare to be cautious.

Well-being and Engagement

Engagement is related to well-being, so there is a case for it. However, we must look at individual needs, personality, and experience and not carpet bomb people into engagement. Not everybody needs to be treated in the same way to remain engaged or feel well. Striving for high levels of engagement might be counterproductive.

We should look at engagement as the consequence of a healthy organization: the quality of the work, the leadership behavior, the support people get, the work environment, the culture, …. these elements constitute the work context. It’s the job of the leadership to make sure that the context contains sufficient resources for people to carry the workload entrusted to them. As always, it’s about the right level, not about as much as possible.

And that also means we should be careful with engagement programs, perks, or shallow incentives. I dread the organizations that think they should paint everything in light colors and install a sectarian family vibe that puts people in a trance. That is not engagement. That is indoctrination. Instead, we should provide quality, care, challenge, meaning, opportunity, and safety.

If we want to stimulate engagement, we need to pick the right definition, meaning we should focus on what has genuinely a link with both well-being and performance.


Photo by Belle Co:

We should not overestimate engagement. Too much of it is not good.

David DucheyneFounder of Otolith

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

Leave a Reply

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy