ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.

                                                                 Ambrose Bierce:  The Devil’s Dictionary

Most of these Musings are devoted to inveighing against bad and, sadly, all too common ideas about Employee Engagement (EE), with each Friday’s entry featuring the worst EE idea of that week.  That’s as it should be, since I firmly believe that the most important step leaders can take if they want to drive EE levels up is to stop doing the things that cause employees to dis-engage.

Occasionally, though, something about EE gets said or written that is actually good.  Maybe even quite good.  Maybe even excellent.

Such is the 2/28/16 piece (“Have a heart attack”) written by Jeffrey Tobin and published on  Given Ambrose Bierce’s definition of “admiration” at the top of this page, I can say without equivocation that I deeply admire what Tobin had to say.

Here’s how his column begins:

I just took an online quiz to find out if I love my wife. I really did. Thankfully, the results came back with a “100% On Fire!” Wouldn’t you know it … I love my wife! This survey confirmed it!  Imagine how relieved I was to see the quality of our relationship quantifiably displayed right there on my computer screen. I should take this test every six months or so: If the numbers ever start to fall off, I’ll see the trend and plan accordingly.

It’s silly to think that a test — even a good one — could prove whether or not I love my wife. That’s just plain dumb.

Exactly so.  Tobin goes on to cite Gallup’s findings regarding EE since the turn of the millennium, results that consistently show EE levels stagnating at around 30%—this despite the untold hours and dollars spent measuring, analyzing, consulting, training, reading books and articles, and all the rest.  Then comes what is referred to in (pretentious) journalistic circles as “the nut graf”:

I’ll bet you can name every truly engaged employee you’ve ever met. You can feel it. It’s palpable. And it’s not a number. It’s a relationship. But surveys can’t tell us much about relationship. They are subjective, not objective.

After a bit more detail about Gallup’s findings, Tobin concludes with this:

I believe that a needed revolution in employee engagement will be centered in the arena of love, not objective actions. Most won’t like this kind of talk. But then, this kind of talk is suited only for the strong.

The strong of heart.

The Devil’s Dictionary does not include a definition of “hate,” but if it did, it would probably be something like...

HATE, n. One’s anger at seeing others who are as good as—if not better than—oneself.

So not only do I admire Tobin, but I think I may also hate him, since he has distilled into 500 words what I’ve spent the past 30 years writing about and teaching when it comes to understanding the true challenge at hand when it comes to EE.

Well done, Tobin.  You b*****d.