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7 Terrible Employee Engagement Ideas to Avoid


Employee engagement ideas can make or break morale. Here are seven terrible ideas you should avoid implementing at work.

Remember the kid’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? (It was recently made into a movie, too.) If you’ve never read or seen either the book or the movie, here’s a brief summary:

Alexander is a young boy whose day goes from bad to worse, starting the moment he gets out of bed in the morning with gum stuck in his hair. For the rest of the day, nothing goes right in his carpool, at school, or with his friends. To get away from all the bad things that keep happening, Alexander declares he will move to Australia.

Having our own bad days

Terrible, horrible, bad days happen to everyone. And, unfortunately, some of these bad days frequently happen at work. Our managers and their ideas directly impact our job satisfaction and commitment.

Since we talk so much on this blog about good engagement ideas, I thought it would be fun to look at some of the most terrible, horrible, awful, no good, very bad ideas some companies put into practice.

Causing more problems than solving them

Here are three bad ideas taken directly from the article The worst employee engagement ideas, ever! And how to avoid them:

  1. “One U.S. company wanted to ease tensions between its employees, so as part of a teambuilding activity asked all staff to go around the room and tell their colleagues what they didn’t like about them. Cue lots of tears and even worse workplace relationships.”
  2. “Some organisations offer communal baths which supposedly help build trust and make people feel free to discuss things they wouldn’t in an office setting. But could you look your boss in the eye the next day if you’d showered together?”
  3. “The popularity of I’m a Celebrity… has seen a number of companies embracing teambuilding bushtucker trials where employees are forced to eat insects. Yuck!”

I guess some ideas are better in theory than in execution.

From the article The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Boosting Employee Engagement, here are a few more bad employee engagement ideas:

Motivating employees through intimidation

Telling employees “they better get this work done by the end of the day or something bad will happen to them” may seem like an effective way to increase productivity, but the benefits are short-lived. This strategy not only harms your employees’ day-to-day morale but also may lower your retention rates. No one wants to work for someone they’re afraid of.

Motivating employees only with money

There’s no doubt that a large salary can temporarily smooth over a lot of problems, but money is no longer a long-term solution. In fact, much of today’s workforce would choose a smaller salary over the ability to make a social difference through their work, have the opportunity to grow their careers, and be part of a dynamic company culture.

Choosing less than ideal recognition programs

The standard go-to recognition program is the “employee of the month.” We should rethink this strategy, though, to be more inclusive of other employees who are working just as hard on a daily basis as the “featured” employee but receiving none of the appreciation.

For example, instead of management choosing which employee to honor, develop a “peer recognition” program instead. Once a month, each department votes for their colleagues who have gone above and beyond. Then each small group gets a special prize, like a free lunch or extra time off. This way more people get included in the rewards and jealousy is less likely to fester.

Leaving the onboarding process too soon

Does your company have a formal, organized, ongoing orientation process for new hires? Or are new employees left to flounder and figure things out for themselves a few days after being hired?

The first few weeks and months are more crucial to employee retention than any other period; a lot of employees make their decision to stay or quit during this time. New employees need to be proactively integrated into the company culture as much as possible to get them engaged and keep them engaged down the road.

Trading bad ideas for good ones

To keep your employees from having terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days (and moving to Australia), trade these lousy employee engagement ideas for better ones. Do you have any stories about employee engagement ideas that were less than successful where you work? Feel free to leave us a comment.

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