Show of hands… how many of you like being compared to domesticated farm animals? Or even non-domesticated animals for that matter?

Except for honey badgers and wolverines – those are some bad-ass animals. I’m cool if someone said I was like a honey badger or wolverine.

But what about cows? Do you like being compared to a cow? Don’t we all? Why else would people write about treating employees like cows? You’ve seen it. You know the mantra: contented cows give more milk. Contented cows give more milk ergo contented employees give more work. Create contented employees and you get more output with very little if any additional input.

This is the thinking that is being passed off as management advice in our world today. This is what we are sharing, tweeting, blogging about.

Contented freakin cows.

I know this “idea” has been around for a while but it is really starting to bother me more and more as companies continue to try even harder to drive up employee engagement scores. It’s almost as if because the “gurus” have shown us the scores for engagement haven’t moved in their studies, now every company is somehow OBLIGATED to do something to move that number. Whether they need to or not.

It’s a cold-war approach to engagement. If they are doing it, I have to do it.

platform shoesMutually assured engagement.

Engagement is the “Every other guy is wearing platform shoes so I should too I guess.” If you didn’t live in the late 70s believe it or not – guys wore platform shoes and wide leg pants with huge pant cuffs. FTR – not everything everyone else is doing is the right thing. 70’s fashion should have at least taught us that. I hope.

So why do companies have this ridiculous desire to follow bovine management ideas to help them with their “engagement” problem? Did I miss the memo that every company has to have 80% employee engagement? Oh – yeah I forgot. We have those “correlated” studies between engagement and profits. I guess that is all we need to lemming-like follow the each other off the cliff.

I’ve seen the whole engagement thing get less and less about helping employees and more and more about wringing the last ounce of sweat and toil out of employee under the guise of “engagement.” And we wonder why employees don’t feel connected to their employers. The minute you start comparing your employee engagement efforts to how to get more milk from a cow you’ve got problems.

You know what else works in the farming world…. More slop. That’s right. More slop = bigger pigs = more pork = more money.

But wait… wouldn’t that idea seem to indicate the whole wellness thing is working against the engagement thing? Fatter hogs make more money for the farmer – therefore, fatter employees should make more money for the company.

Free-range chickens are happier I’m told – yet they most likely have less meat on them – so let’s not jump into the work-from-home thing just yet. Unless we can measure their caloric intake. Then we’ll know if we have contented hogs, uh, sorry, I mean employees. No standing desks!

I know it is human nature to follow the herd (damn – there’s that animal connection again.) But take a minute and back the camera up and take a long look at your company. Ask yourself if you should do what everyone else is doing or if you should do what is right for you? Don’t ask a guru what to do to engage an employee.

Ask an employee. They typically have better input.

Don’t fall for the meme du jour for employee engagement.

And please – don’t use cattle management as your go-to resource for driving employee engagement.

Try using human psychology, human connections, being human – to manage your humans.

Radical I know. But it’s better than wearing those horrible plaid pants and white belts. Trust me.