Grieving an employee engagement sunset…


Can employee engagement lead to employee disengagement?

I felt sad reading how the Saskatchewan labour relations board put a halt to employee engagement activities for SGI, an insurance company in Saskatchewan. The sadness was that the very concept that could enrich the workplace for all had become a source of dispute between the organization’s management and union.

Here are a few snippets from the Regina Leader-Post article on the halting of SGI’s president’s employee engagement team (PEET):

The Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (LRB) had ordered a temporary halt to all activities conducted by SGI’s president’s employee engagement team (PEET), including handing out bonuses under its employee recognition program.

The Saskatchewan Insurance Office and Professional Employees’ Union (COPE) Local 397 filed a complaint with the LRB in January alleging SGI had committed unfair labour practices by negotiating directly with employees through the establishment of an employee engagement committee in April 2006, which was composed of in-scope and out-of-scope employees.

The union claimed the committee gathered employee-related information, made recommendations and took steps to implement changes which related to the terms and conditions of employment of in-scope employees.

The union also complained that the employer had undermined the collective bargaining process by promoting the initiatives of the committee, by unilaterally paying bonuses to employees without the involvement or knowledge of the union and by failing or refusing to bargain these matters with the union.

SGI denied that it had committed an unfair labour practice through negotiating directly with in-scope employees by way of the president’s employee engagement team, the primary objective of which was to increase employee job satisfaction and engagement in the workplace.

I am not close enough to this situation to understand the full extent of the issues involved. In addition, it is not my intention to judge either party in the dispute, I imagine there is validity to both sides on this issue. Rather, I want to express my dismay and grief that employee engagement – something I see so positively -became an issue that probably contributed to employee disengagement.

Engagement must be for all!

This article points out the need to ensure that there is mutual purpose for everyone involved with employee engagement initiatives. For PEET’s sake and the employee’s experience of work, I hope this does not set the sun on engagement for management, union, and the employees in this company. I wish them well as they sort this out and I hope the sun will rise again on employee engagement – making the workplace a better place for all.

Get Engaged:

  1. How do your employee engagement initiatives fit within the wider context of the organization?
  2. How would you avoid having something similar occur at your workplace?

Photo Credit: Crescent Moon Sunset by


3 responses to “Grieving an employee engagement sunset…

  1. At my last job (an environment of low employee engagement), I was not in management and it feels many times that if you are not in management you have no control over how employee engagement can occur, but I think even despite a lack of support from management and the company there are things that can be done to help increase employee engagement in this situation.

    One things my manager did was to continuously give me feedback and when I’d do really well, he would make sure to give me a phonecall or a candybar. Even these words and small tokens really kept me engaged for that time and encouraged me in my work.

    Of course indviduals with no corp support are usually band-aids =(, but it can help stop the bleeding until things change.

  2. Holly,

    I appreciate your comments. You made me think about how engagement is both external and internal. External things such as relationships and rewards and praise, etc. can boost engagement and our own attitudes, thoughts, emotions, and actions can influence engagment.

    I think what disturbs me is when management and staff are divided and staff feel that management is just trying to get more productivity out of them or management see disengagement as some kind of worker character flaw.

    We are all in this together but sometimes we don’t feel a connection to our work, our peers, our leaders. This disconnect can lead to disengagement and disengagement can lead to disconnect…a sense of workplace dis-ease.

    Now that I wrote this I realize I need to write a post in the near future on the “dis-ease” of work. Thanks once again for stimulating another viewpoint on engagement.


  3. This article demonstrates to me what happens when an employer seeks to engage unionized employees without first seeking to engage the unions. This attempt to in effect by-pass the union to reach unionized employees is doomed to failure. Employees vote for union representatives for a very important reason – they want their representatives to represent them.

    Employees are rightly suspicious when the employer tries to directly engage them. They ask “is this a union busting exercise? Is this an attempt to undermine the union’s position in the workplace?” By in large unionized employees support the place of unions in their workplaces.
    SGI’s failure to recognize this was its fatal flaw.

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