Who’s Responsible for Employee Engagement?
20 June 2018

Employee accountability – motivation – employee engagement

Here’s a joke for you.

The rain fell, the floodwaters were rising. A religious man (could be Christian, Muslim, Hindu – doesn’t matter) retreated anxiously to the top floor of his house. A boat came along and offered to rescue him.

“No, thanks,” said the religious man. “The Lord, my God will rescue me.”

The boatmen went off to rescue other people.

The rain continued and the religious man climbed on to his roof.

Another rescue boat came along. Once again the religious man said: “No thanks. The Lord, my God will rescue me.” The boat went off.

As the flood waters rose further the religious man clung to the chimney stack.

The third rescue boat came into view but yet again the religious man said: “It’s OK. The Lord, my God will rescue me.” The boat went off.

After a while the religious man fell in and was drowned.

When he got to his Heaven he saw his God and asked (a shade crossly): “Why did you let me drown down there?”

God replied: “I sent you three boats and you refused them all. You’ve really got to do something to help yourself”.

Like the God in this story suggests that people must show some accountability – and that applies in the workplace too.

Employers must be good employers and must motivate and engage their staff (no issue with that either). But I’m really not happy with the urban myth we all hear bandied around that employees leave bad managers. In my view that’s inaccurate and incomplete thinking. For sure, sometimes employees leave bad managers.

I’ve done it myself. A bullying HR director no less. What a pig he was. But people don’t always leave for that reason.

The problem is that many people seem to accept this trite generalisation. It makes for an impossible task for employers. Some employees will expect to “be motivated” and blame the manager if they’re not. That’s absurd.

We can only live our own lives. We can’t live other peoples.

In the workplace managers can only do what they can do to motivate, engage, challenge and develop employees. I’m not advocating any abdication of responsibility by the employer. BUT – I would like to see more employees stepping up to the mark and not being so passive in their expectations. And they are. We seem to have a substantial number in the workforce who are like baby birds – beaks open, expecting to receive, one way street stuff.

Not in my book. Employee engagement is an active process and both parties need to contribute. After all, as the great Dorothy Parker once wrote:”You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think”.

Start by recruiting the right people (follow the link to find out how) and you’re well on the way, but there are lots of other things you can do to foster active participation by your employee.

For help resolving all your HR queries and problems get in touch!

Sign up for our free resources and free weekly tip - subscribe here.

For help resolving all your HR queries and problems get in touch!


Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2023 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.