The Worse Employee Engagement Idea of the Week!

This week’s comes from a UK online journal, Peterborough Business.  Here are the headline and opening paragraphs:


Eyebrows were certainly raised in the office as ABAX employees were invited to cross-dress for the day during the company’s ‘March Madness’ month.

The month aims to promote enthusiasm and fun in the workplace to reward staff for their hard work and inspire them to a greater level of performance.

The Norwegian-owned company, which has a UK office in Warmington, near Peterborough, holds ‘March Madness’ each year, and this month’s ‘madness’ not only involved cross-dressing but also table football tournaments and performance-based prize giveaways.

 Frank Ystenes, ABAX’s UK Managing Director, said: “ABAX aims to have a satisfied employee rate of more than 80%. This is something we work hard towards during the whole year as we believe that happy employees mean happy customers, but in March we go that little bit further.

 “So we may wear our clothing inside out, cross-dress, wear cuddly animal costumes or have table football tournaments, all to raise enthusiasm and build on ABAX’s unique team feeling.”


I generally manage to take a pretty philosophical view of this sort of thing.  Yes it’s a terrible idea, one demonstrating all the subtlety and sophistication of a carny bachelor party, so it would be easy to poke fun at it and move on. 

But this particular thing makes me genuinely angry for at least a couple of reasons: 1) the implication that employees are fundamentally such happy, simple beings that all you need to do is dangle some shiny trinkets in front of them to keep them mollified and you will have done your job as a leader; 2) the fact that such tactics don’t even make an attempt to understand what engagement truly is and instead just dust off old “Employee Appreciation Day” plans and think that base is now covered.

Not good.   Not good at all.  In fact, quite bad, actually.