The Perils of Oversimplifying Employee Engagement Issues

There are Rarely Simple Answers to Complex Issues

A man walks into his doctor’s office with an arrow in his back. The doctor says, “Fast pulse, profuse sweating, difficulty breathing, lower back pain. Yep. You’ve got appendicitis.”

We laugh because it’s so obvious. That said, in the real world, coming to a solid diagnoses is tricky. (Think Dr. House!) We trust our health care professionals to look for the arrow in the back as well as sift through the barrage of information about every possible health problem that has to do with shallow breathing. Even more difficult is acting upon the diagnoses in a smart, effective way.

We want simple. We want fast. We want the arrow in the back fix. (Just pull it out!) Rarely, though, is that the case.

This oversimplification happens in organizations. Dealing with employee engagement issues are complex. Rarely do companies have an arrow in the back that would make a company-wide fix easy and simple.

This is frustrating to organizations that are looking for simple and elegant. But when companies truly want to make significant changes, they have to probe deeper. And that gets a little messy. Certainly, identifying global engagement issues in the company (that arrow) is crucial. The big, company-wide stuff can be a vital part of any strategy to improve engagement. Engagement issues, however, vary within different parts of an organization. So many of the biggest opportunities are working toward discovering what parts of an organization are at risk because of specific, localized engagement issues.

The peril of oversimplification, though tempting, is akin to painting over the crack in the wall without fixing the structural damage. Employee engagement is not simple. It takes time. A realistic diagnoses can most certainly be overwhelming because working toward real change takes commitment and patience and a realistic vision of the complexities of an organization and the people who work there. Employee engagement problems are rarely (if ever) an arrow in the back. Though we really want an easy fix, easy answer, easy path, it is simply not there.

It’s uncomfortable. It’s messy. And it’s one of the only ways a company can make real, significant changes.

As essayist and journalist H.L. Mencken said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

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