Employee Engagement Killers

by Jennifer Miller on July 25, 2013

in Leadership, Workplace Issues

How do leaders crush employee engagement? Oh, let us count the ways. . .


Business problemsOver at SmartBlog on Leadership, I describe a newly hired vice president whose intense move to action panicked people, rather than inspiring them. Within a week of starting his new job, he had completely shut down employee engagement. I was going to title the SmartBlog post How to Shut Down Employee Engagement in Five Days, but settled instead for Why waiting is a new executive’s first task.

There are innumerable ways that leaders kill employee engagement. That’s not their intention, but it is often the unfortunate outcome. I asked The People Equation community for additional examples of employee engagement killers from senior management and here’s what they said:


  1. Failing to realize that if they are a leader, they must be accountable to the vision and the values of the organization at a higher level than their employees.
  2. Allowing their personal struggles with another executive to grow into silos, politics and turf wars that impact their teams, their customers and the entire organization.
  3. Bullying.
  4. Not realizing that one of their main objectives is to identify and remove obstacles so their employees can do their jobs more effectively and more efficiently.
  5. They listen, and do nothing.
  6. Not encouraging/paying for training or at the very least, having someone mentor employees in added roles/promotions.
  7. Not providing feedback!
  8. After giving feedback, no plan of action and follow up.
  9. Not sharing information about what other departments are up to.
  10. They disengage from employees: lack of visibility, clear messaging, no dialogue.
  11. Focusing on finances instead of people.
  12. Giving mixed messages like “employees are our most valuable asset” and then laying people off.


There are simple, low-cost solutions to increasing employee engagement. For example, my colleague Denise said that to counteract Employee Engagement Killer #9 (“not sharing information about what departments are up to”), the “small non-profit that I have been working with has informal gatherings every Monday morning @ 9:30 am to catch up on what everyone is up to and anything pertinent to share. We also eat lunch together-in the conference room-on Fridays and take a full hour to eat and talk about work or socialize.”

Employee engagement isn’t about creating fancy programs. It is simply about connecting with people on a human level. Many of the leaders in the most engaged workplaces that I know understand this; they keep it simple and real.


What other employee engagement killers have you seen in the workplace? Feel free to add to the list in the comments section.



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