Morale < satisfaction < motivation < engagement < justice
I’ve just read yet another post about engagement at work and this particular one irritated me enough to post a general reply here.
The successive movements from workplace morale, to motivation, satisfaction and engagement all speak to this frame: “you have more to give! We could be extracting more from you slackers!”
This is unjust.
There is nothing wrong with our intent or effort – we don’t come to work to be bastards.
There is nothing wrong with the worker.
It is the work that is broken.
Where engagement (and the movements before it) is concerned with how we think or feel about work, justice is actually concerned with the work.
If we fix the work then people will be able participate meaningfully in the work that matters to them and their role. They will be able to see themselves as being meaningful – who they are, what they think and what they bring – to the organisation and to the world.
It’s a shift away from asking “how do we access a person’s utility?” to “how do we address the systemic ways that we obstruct people from being able to bring their true selves – their identity?”
Stop getting distracted by engagement. Focus on fixing the systems of work. People aren’t withholding their full capacity – they are being constrained from being able to bring the best of themselves by the systems of work they participate in.