From time to time in this space, I've poked fun at attempts to drive up engagement levels by employing “shiny objects," a metaphor for gimmickry used to distract people into thinking that you’re actually making progress.

Well, this week’s Worst Idea is unembarrassed enough to recommend literally such an approach.  In an article with this headline—“Can a coin help to rebuild employee engagement?”—you’ll find this gem:

“By definition, winning teams share a common spirit of solidarity, enthusiasm, and devotion to a cause. All very heady stuff, when you think about it. So, do we need to design and implement sophisticated strategies to accommodate these concepts in order to regenerate a sense of team in our firms? No, a much simpler approach can be even more effective.

“Any tactic that can be used to bring people together and promotes a sense of mutual identity can do the trick. Even the dissemination of a simple coin to all employees can be enough to get the ball rolling.”

Things break down in that first sentence in the second paragraph.  If it’s saying “Any tactic that brings people together is one that works,” then it’s a tautology.  If it’s saying “Give it a try.  What the hell—it might work,” then it’s banal.  Neither interpretation is good.

Worst of all, it’s insulting.  It prescribes gimmickry when what’s called for is doing the hard, slogging work it takes to know what will make people become more psychologically invested in their work.  Step 1 in making progress is making your peace with the fact that there are no short cuts.