The Seven Moods of Employee Engagement

by Jennifer Miller on September 12, 2011

in Leadership

On this morning’s walk I saw a typical sight: kids waiting at a school bus stop. There were six elementary-aged kids, all lined up, hoods drawn up around their heads to ward off the chill in the Michigan air. Their body language telegraphed various attitudes: duty, sleepiness, and watchfulness. Six kids waiting for their day to begin.

And then, there was the seventh kid; probably someone’s little brother. He was about three years old and he also sported the hood drawn up around his ears. But he wasn’t standing in line. Oh no, he was having fun. As the others stood mutely more or less in a row, Little Brother danced around all of them, chanting in a sing-song, “Catch me if you can . . .catch me if you can. . .”

Nobody took him up on it. But that didn’t appear to quell his enthusiasm. He just kept on circling the group, repeating his chant.

It made me smile. And it immediately drew my mind to the workplace—isn’t that just how it is? For every happy, engaged employee, you’ve got six others that are at best, impassive and at worst, toxic. Given the research that suggests that happy people are more engaged at work, leaders have got to find a way to create workplace environments that promote if not happiness, then at least less grumpiness. We’ve got to find a way to nurture more Little Brothers in the office. Well, maybe except for the skipping and dancing part. Or maybe not.

It’s sort of like the Seven Moods of Employee Engagement: leaders need to learn coax the troublesome types out of their moods in order to create the most productive and engaged work environment.

In addition to Happy, I would offer the following possible Seven Moods for your perusal. Do you recognize any of these players in your workplace?

  • Entitled
  • Disgruntled
  • Listless
  • Gossipy
  • Clueless
  • Pushy

Of course, the list above is tongue-in-cheek, with a focus on the negative aspects. I could easily create a more productive employee list such as Disciplined, Energetic, Thoughtful, Creative, Collaborative, Ethical, and Culturally Aware.

Questions: as a leader, what’s on your list for the Seven Moods of Employee Engagement? And how do you create a place where there are more Happys and less Entitleds?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy Lindenberger September 12, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I love the visual image of this little boy having fun while the older kids are having none of it. In my experience, I have the most fun at work (and am the most engaged and productive) when I am doing something I am good at, something I believe in, and with people I trust and admire. Maybe that is why I love having my own business … I can control a lot of that to make things work for me. 🙂

Jennifer Miller September 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm


Hi there! Yes, it was an image that spoke the proverbial 1000 words. I appreciate your framing of the Little Brother scenario: skill + belief + trust = “fun at work”. Nice!

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