This week’s Worst Idea comes from an article by “DBishop” published on the UK website TrainingZone.  It contained this snappy passage:

“Why should it be the business who surveys the employees’ levels of engagement?  Would it not be preferable for employees to take control, to work individually and collectively to monitor and improve their own engagement levels?  When people are empowered to drive the process via online engagement tools then they take charge of their own destiny.  That doesn’t abrogate leadership responsibility but it does mean that employees are empowered and trusted to identify the training or support which they need to further develop, two of the key elements of engagement.” 

So let me see if I’m understanding this correctly.

DBishop would have us take a concept—employee engagement—that is already widely misunderstood to be a list of action steps to be taken by leaders rather than “the extent to which an individual employee is moved to invest additional energy and effort on the job”...

...promote the use of “online engagement tools,” thereby reinforcing the notion that engagement is something that can be addressed in such a mechanical, instrumental fashion...

...assign the application of such tools to the very employees who already have strong suspicions that engagement is just a way of getting them to do more work for the same amount of money...

...address objections that this represents abrogation of leadership responsibility by simply asserting that it doesn't...

...while making a second assertion that it merely means that "employees are empowered and trusted.”

I think this is excellent thinking.  But why stop there?  Why not have employees negotiate your company’s contract with its benefits administrator?  Shouldn’t your employees be emotionally invested in the process by which their benefits are determined?

And why not have a committee of rank-and-file employees develop all of your functional strategic plans?  After all, they’re the ones that will have the responsibility for implementing those plans! 

Better still—have all of this be part of new-employee orientation!  What better way to send the signal that you expect new employees to be fully engaged in the fate of business from—literally—day one?!?!

The possibilities seem endless.  All you have to do is combine a gross misunderstanding of what employee engagement is with utter shamelessness at asserting away the existence of all appurtenant challenges and complications.

On the plus side, all of the above would free up more time for leaders to attend conferences about employee engagement, thereby closing The Circle of Life, clueless-leadership-style.