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Is Employee Engagement Poisoning or Nurturing Performance?

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Sun, Apr 29, 2012

A recent meeting with one of my clients reminded me how one person with a bad attitude can hurt an organization.Three Types of Employees [Gallup] resized 600

If you don’t feel measuring employee engagement is important in your business please realize this.  One person can dramatically affect the attitude of your people and undermine all the efforts you exert to improve morale and employee engagement.

My first full time job at a radio station in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin gives me personal knowledge of how one individual in the organization affected my energy, drive and faith in the organization I worked for.  I was a full time sales rep, and Johnny Walker was our morning announcer.  Since we lived close together and had recently been married we frequently got together after work and on the weekends to share beverages, dinner and other recreational activities.  Invariably the discussion would turn to work.  Johnny (not his real name) was ambitious.  In fact he began to work part time in sales to earn more money before he eventually left the radio station.

Johnny was always discussing how much money the owners of the radio station were making from our hard work, and shouldn’t we be rewarded more for our efforts.  While this started out harmless at first eventually it became clear that Johnny really believed this.  Johnny and I were both young (early to mid-twenties) with practically no other experience in the broadcast world so we were naive and immature.  However it didn’t take too long for Johnny to convince me he was right and that we should be earning much more than what the company was compensating us for.

It didn’t take too long for my performance, which prior to this was on a steady incline to decrease.  Part stemmed from simply spending my time drinking and entertaining with my new BFF Johnny Walker and his wife Sheila rather than working on improving my sales and writing skills.  The other portion was the osmosis of his views and opinions on mine.  From coming to work at 7 AM in the morning to get a head start on the day, suddenly due to staying up to late or simply lack of a positive attitude I started coming to work at 8, 8:30 or even 9 AM.  It didn’t take too long for my sales performance to reflect this lack of concentration and effort.

Fortunately I had an understanding sales manager who righted my ways and helped me to understand the economics of owning a radio station and the risk that goes with entrepreneurship which Johnny and I hadn’t appreciated.

My friendship with Johnny dwindled as I began to understand I had to choose between his friendship and accepting his beliefs or choosing to set my own course and be responsible for my performance.  Johnny eventually left the station and became a very successful sales person.  I’m sure he learned the same lessons I had to about associating with the right people and having the proper attitude.

One of the questions on Gallup’s Q12 on Employee Engagement is: “Do you have a best friend at work?”  I hope this story offers ample evidence on why this can be so important to performance and how having the right friend can influence or poison your staff. 

Isn’t it time you discovered if the type of people and culture you have in your company is poisoning or nurturing your people’s performance?

Topics: employee engagement, employee performance, performance

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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