In my last blog I focused on the emotional element of employee engagement. And I’m going to continue the ’emotion’ theme in this blog.

I responded to a question recently on HRZone that someone had posted about the ’emotional connection’ between employer and employee. I expressed my view that it’s stronger than a connection – I’d describe it as an emotional ‘contract’ and it exists (usually at an unconscious level) between an employer and each of it’s employees. 

It’s a two-way relationship. In addition to the ‘hard’ objectives associated with each role, the organisation expects certain behaviours from its employees. Some of them may be reflected in organisational values, or written down in the ‘how’ bit of role descriptions, but many won’t be. They’re the unwritten rules of working there. Adhere to the rules and everything will be ok but step outside them and you start to attract negative attention.

And on the other hand, each employee expects certain things from both the organisation as a whole and from their manager / leader specifically. These things will be what’s required to meet their personal rules for what being a good employer and boss means. For example at an organisational level: "in order to be a great place to work I need to feel I’m treated fairly, which means that the policies are applied in the same way across the business". Or "in order to be a great boss, my boss must say good morning to me every morning". Break the rules and the emotional contract starts to break down.

The problem is that each employee has rules reflect their values and beliefs, their previous decisions and experiences and so on, and as a result they are unique to them. And these subtle differences make it hard to even understand them, let alone manage them effectively. It’s even more difficult because often people can’t articulate their ‘rules’. They may have an awareness only that they are happy or cross about something that’s occurred.

I’ve intentionally drawn out the fact that rules will exist for boss and organisation as a whole. I’ve never really understood the debate about whether employees leave businesses or bosses. It’s too much of a generalisation. They sometimes leave businesses (because their rules for the organisation as a whole have been transgressed) and sometimes leave bosses (because their boss rules have been broken). It always depends on the individuals rules.

Ultimately this illustrates that the organisation should be absolutely clear on what it expects from employees and what it will do in return for them – and then it must always, without fail keep those commitments. And it illustrates the importance of managers being emotionally intelligent and developing a relationship with each person in their team – with the aim of developing an awareness of how others are feeling, and through discussion with them understanding what’s caused it. 

Tap into the rules people have, manage emotional contracts and you’ll create people who are truly engaged… 

Twitter: @accordengage

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