As you may know, every Monday’s Musing features “The Worst Employee Engagement Idea of the Week!!”

All of these weekly worst-ideas come from emails and links that cross my desk during the previous week.  The choice of the truly worst idea is never an easy one, since there are a lot of bad ideas to choose from.  Every now and then, though, something truly excellent crosses my desk as well.  A primary example of such excellence is an April 21st article that appeared on the website, headlined: Employee Engagement? Forget it.

You can read the article here, and when you do, you’ll conclude that its author, Wayne Turmel, truly gets it when it comes to Employee Engagement.  Here are the first three paragraphs of Turmel’s article:

One of the biggest workplace issues of the day - and this website is absolutely loaded with articles to prove it - is employee engagement. Year after year we’re told that that fewer than a third of employees are actively engaged at work. This, it seems, is the fault of careless employers who just don’t care. If they only offered better benefits, or free pizza, or allowed webcams, or let us bring in our shih-tzu to the office, employees would re-engage to give their best efforts and all would be well with the world.

There’s only one problem with that theory: it’s nonsense.

Before you scroll down to the comments section to fire off angry rebuttals, hear me out. I’m not saying that employers don’t make a difference to employee engagement levels, they do. The fallacy, though, is that engagement is something you can do to other people.

At the risk of sounding like I’m doing an impression of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally...Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, YES!!!  Turmel gets it exactly right!  Engagement is not something one does to other people.  It’s a choice—whether conscious or subconscious—that those other people make based on multiple interdependent factors.

He concludes with this:  There is an old saying (attributed to Buddha although he never actually said it), that ‘pain is inevitable, misery is optional’. The same goes for engagement. Our workplaces might be absolutely crazy and even soul-sucking, but how we respond to that craziness and whether we allow our souls to be slurped up is up to us, whether there’s free pizza or not.

I shall allow myself one more enthusiastic “Yes!” before urging you to read Turmel’s full article.  It is the best thing I’ve read on the topic in a very long time (that, of course, wasn’t written by me).