An Easier Way to Boost Employee Engagement

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Boost employee engagement thru team emotionsWhat if employees that we call “disengaged” are really just stressed, burned out, or simply bored with the routine. Then the remedies would be entirely different than the ones we’re trying.

What we commonly diagnose as an employee’s lack of engagement may really be due to primal emotional issues, which are best remedied at their source. Stress, burnout and boredom are understandably prevalent in many teams. Customers are more demanding, deadlines and resources keep getting tighter, problems are more complex, and the never ending stream of issues is wearisome. These facts remain even when working for the most engaging managers, and they hugely influence the enthusiasm that employees hold for their work.

Our conventional treatments for employee engagement go only so far. Sure it helps when managers listen to and empathize with employees, as well as when they provide greater freedoms in how they do their work. And employees do get invigorated when their company and customers value their work and appreciate their efforts. Those are all key elements of a healthy work environment, but they may not be getting to the heart of the problem.

Stress, fatigue, and boredom are emotional issues that are best dealt with at their source. Here are some actions, proven by new developments in neuroscience and psychology, that managers can take to go directly to the source:

  • Use somatic methods, such as spontaneous play and deep laughter, to rejuvenate primal emotions and energy
  • Employ gamification techniques to introduce more fun and play into routine tasks
  • Give employees a chance to learn or experience something new, because novelty is the best way to invigorate their desire to pursue the fruits of the world
  • Organize work in projects that have a distinct beginning and ending, so teams periodically get to “start over” in a new creative cycle with a new set of objectives
  • Design work breaks that distract employees from their work problems while stimulating them emotionally
  • Introduce some diversity on the team to stir things up and get team members out of their emotional and thinking ruts

These techniques revitalize employees’ emotions and get them more enthused about their work. As an added benefit, they also boost creative and innovative ability.

As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of emotions in teams, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.


About the Author:

Jackie Barretta is a thought leader sharing ideas on how to create a more just and peaceful world. She is also a CIO, and in this role she has led large organizations with hundreds of employees through challenging times and major transformations.
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  1. Renee Houston  July 15, 2013


    I’ve really been able to understand what you are doing now. I love the work you are engaging in and I hope all is well in your world. I’d love to reconnect to say hello when you have a moment.


  2. Tebogo Ramagaga  July 19, 2013


    Disengagement symptoms warrant more attention.

    Management should opt for detailed assessment.
    The CAUSE becomes central.

    Should the diagnosis become suspect,
    a psychologist might have to get to the root of the problem.

    This is a weighty matter;
    especially now that gun toting disengaged individuals mow down people.

    Thank you Jackie.

  3. Anil Saxena  July 19, 2013

    Leveraging emotion and neuroscience are critical to boosting engagement across the organization.

  4. Joe Harder  July 19, 2013

    Jackie, thanks for sharing this. So often we get trapped in the rewards mode in organizations and forget that there are other approaches that can re-energize and re-engage. I particularly appreciate your focus on fun and play. All best, Joe


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