Employee Engagement via psychological contracts

Posted on August 18, 2009


MacLeod ReviewMarianne Huggett, commenting on the MacLeod Review’s struggle to define employer engagement, suggests that, although the term psychological contract has fallen out of favour, it still sits at the core of the relationship between employer and employee. 

However, her concern over the fragility of this bond may be unfounded.

As with many discussions around this topic, the tone of the article tends toward the pessimistic, as is the case with much around people in the workplace.  It seems that commentators have been socialised into accepting that everyone hates their job, that we are in thrall, waiting for a bell to release us come 5.30 and that HR and line management’s job is to try to create almost impossible conditions that might allow an individual to enjoy what they do for a fleeting moment and no more.

This seems perverse.  After all, many people (in industrialised nations) choose what they do for a living.  And, regardless of the fact that job offers are ultimately extended by the hiring company, they cannot be extended (except in a very few instances) to people other than those who have already expressed an interest in doing that job.

Commentators discuss work life balance without so much as a nod to the notion that the ‘work’ part may be every bit as engaging, meaningful and desirable as the ‘life’ part.  Ask Lance Armstrong what he’d rather do on any given day – work, or something else?  Ask Bill Gates.  Or Peter Mandleson for that matter.

In fact, ask it of anyone working in a whole host of careers from the charity & environmental sectors right through to engineering and teaching.  For those of us lucky enough to have been to university, the UK offers the widest career choice of any country on earth, not even worrying about links between degree subject and employment field in most cases.  So why start from the assumption that jobs make people unhappy and that the only benefits they offer are extrinsic?

We need to shift the expectation to one where we assume organisations are engaging with staff intrinsically and where disengagement is the exception rather than the norm.

Posted in: Employment