With more organizations becoming aware of the importance of engagement, the media coverage of the topic has become widespread and more scholarly. This, however, can be a double-edged sword. In a September 3, 2011, opinion piece in the New York Times titled “Do Happy People Work Harder?” Harvard professor Teresa Amabile and researcher Steven Kramer shared some of the results from a project in which they collected more than twelve thousand diary entries from 238 employees at seven companies.
Download: Sample Employee Engagement Survey
They found that about a third of the time, the workers were unhappy, unmotivated, or both—but that on the days that they were happy, they were more apt to have new ideas. Amabile and Kramer write:
“Managers can help ensure that people are happily engaged at work. Doing so isn’t expensive. Workers’ well-being depends, in large part, on managers’ ability and willingness to facilitate workers’ accomplishments—by removing obstacles, providing help, and acknowledging strong effort. A clear pattern emerged when we analyzed the 64,000 specific workday events reported in the diaries: Of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important—by far—is simply making progress in meaningful work.”1
Articles like this create a compelling and data-driven case for the importance of engagement and the role that engagement plays in performance. However, they can also confuse readers who don’t understand the concept of engagement. For many, words and phrases like happiness and work harder create confusion and fuel misconceptions about what engagement is and isn’t. Is engagement about feeling happy? Is it about simply getting work done? Not quite. So let’s take a look at some of the myths surrounding engagement and the facts behind them:
1 Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, “Do Happier People Work Harder?” New York
Times Sunday Review, September 3, 2011.