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Posted by on Oct 11, 2013 in Business, Culture, Engagement, Featured | 3 comments

3 Reasons Why Your Board Should Care about Employee Engagement

Her neck stiffened, her jaw clenched and her words strained from disbelief, or anger, “We don’t need employees input on strategy. We’re the board. They do as we say.” And with that her proclamation ended.

The smell of antiquity gushed from her mouth as she uttered her words. Satisfied with her message and ignorant to their implications, this board President managed to reinforce the moat between her ivory tower and employees.

The board President’s words dehumanized the workplace and those in the arena with blood, dirt and tears marring their faces

In one harrumph, her traditional perspective disregarded the countless stories of commitment displayed in late work nights, missed family events, even the battle scars from project implementations. Waved off with the proverbial “it’s their job” remark, the board President’s words dehumanized the workplace and those in the arena with blood, dirt and tears marring their faces.

It’s common. It’s unfortunate. And it chips away at employee engagement.

Why should the board care about employee engagement?

Capped growth

Board members who disregard the collective narrative of employees’ contributions, disassociate themselves from corporate reality. Employment viewed as a means to a profitable end alienates people. Alienated people stop caring. Hard work, creativity, innovation suffocate negatively influencing corporate growth goals.

Employment viewed as a means to a profitable end alienates people


Board members viewing the organization from the ivory tower will not understand the culture in which managers and employees work. Board members are also stewards of the corporate culture. They are not culture-renegades. A company’s culture isn’t to support the board, but those who must implement the solutions to align with the mission of the business.

Board members are also stewards of the corporate culture

Purpose Disillusionment

When a board’s actions are incongruent with the company’s values and mission, they message to all employees and customers that the organization’s purpose doesn’t matter. Employees grow disillusioned and discontent, as the business’s reason for existence is watered down.

Employee engagement is a board concern. Their actions influence and shape results and the work environment. Outdated, dehumanizing perspectives of employees broadcast a message that they don’t matter. Eventually the board is viewed as out of touch, arrogant, and useless to the purpose of the organization.

We don’t need more useless and outdated management beliefs no matter who, where and how such people support an organization.

Image credit: 1971yes / 123RF Stock Photo

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Shawn Murphy

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and Co-CEO of ExchangeGain. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post.

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  • TedCoine

    Bravo, Shawn. You know, I wish I could say that president’s sentiment was rare in 2013 (sounds like 1913!), but it’s still quite common – in fact, still the norm.

    However, I’ve noticed something stark. I haven’t heard such things from leaders of highly prosperous companies. It could be that I’m filtering out the leaders of highly prosperous companies I talk to, of course – there’s nothing completely objective about anything we humans do, and if management of business even IS a science, it’s a very soft one indeed. But still…

    Talk to a leader of a thriving organization in a competitive market, you don’t get proclamations like board leader’s. I hear that most often from:
    * Leaders of monopolies
    * Leaders whose competitors have not modernized their management philosophies/practices, either
    * Leaders of very low-skill-intensive industries where workers are easily interchangeable
    * Leaders whose employees are in an unfavorable job market – locally, in their industry, for their skill set, or nationally/internationally
    * Leaders whose companies are stumbling

    And here’s the thing. As the economy heals, more and more employees will feel comfortable to leave cultures they dislike (as 70% do today). The most talented will go first.

    More leaders will be running companies that are stumbling, because their talent is fleeing.

  • William Powell

    Love this Shawn! It’s amazing to me that “leadership” in some companies still view themselves as the sole harbingers of ideas. I was chatting with someone the other day who had a colleague leave their organization because of this. They accepted less money for a better environment.

    In my experience, this grabastic way of running a company is usually rooted in an act of desperation. There is a feeling of lack of control and things going badly, so attempting to exert more control and inflexibility seems to be the best course…at least in their minds.

    It’s destructive and stupid, but still unfortunately prevalent.

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  • Spark the Action

    Great post Shawn, unfortunately there are many board members still in the realm of ‘what got us here, will get us where we want to go.’ syndrome –

    Many thanks for your work and thoughts,
    Best regards,

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