There’s a lot of talk about how “management” plays a key role in fostering employee engagement but they’re not the only ones who can kill employees’ morale. Oh, no, colleagues can do a mighty fine job with that as well. Kevin Kruse, author of Employee Engagement for Everyone calls the road-weary co-workers the “Downers” (referring to the Saturday Night Live skit with Debbie Downer).
Take this example of an enthusiastic new employee who was hired to work in a call center. Let’s call her Katie. Katie shows up to work on Day One and is geeked to be starting her new job. She completes her paperwork with Human Resources, meets her boss (seems like a nice lady) and attends a company orientation session.
So far, so good.
Over the next week, as part of her training, Katie is assigned to several co-workers (ostensibly more seasoned, and, one would hope, positive role models).
This is what she experiences:
On the first day of Katie’s “side-by-side training” (where she observes fellow call center employees), her trainer tells her: “I’ll have you sit with Tom, not sure why.” Later on, it’s “I’ll have you sit with Carol. All they do is say no to people.” And so it continued for the employee’s second week of work, with the negativity spreading like an insidious disease.
The person who shared this story with me said it best:
Leaders need to recognize the energy, excitement, anticipation of new employees and prepare all employees who interact with them to “feed” the engagement, not strip it away with words, actions, and attitude.
Leaders – if you assign mentors for new employees, be sure you’re pairing them with people who model positive attributes and a healthy dose of enthusiasm. The cynical employee will tell you, “Hey I’m just showing her the reality of our office.” When it comes to employee engagement, there are multiple realities. Whose reality do you want new employees to see: Negative Ned’s/Nellie’s, or Positive Pete’s/Patty’s?
Make new employees’ first few weeks on the job a positive experience – so that they’ll believe positive workforce engagement is the norm, not the exception. That way, they are primed to perpetuate a “reality” that is filled with positive intention, not negative defeatism.
To see all of the posts in the Kevin Kruse Employee Engagement Series, click here.
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