No Image Available

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Employee Engagement (again)


Many years ago, I worked at the same company as a woman called Irene; we started at the firm on the same day and we kept in touch over the ten years that we both worked there. Over that period, I watched as her career took an interesting turn and, by the end of the ten years, she was taking, on average, around about 80 to 100 days a year off sick.

It wasn’t that there was anything particularly wrong with Irene – she didn’t break her leg or anything; that 80 to 100 days each year was made up of the odd day or two here and there. Coughs, colds, sprains, migraines – there were always reasons for each absence and, over the months and years, they added up.

During her time at the company, Irene had a number of different managers, each of whom went through the same process. Initially, they would be crestfallen to find that Irene had been assigned to their team; then they would decide to resolve the problem and tackle it head-on; this would inevitably meet with failure and so they would give up, finally working to transfer her on to yet another unfortunate manager. Irene was not an easy woman to talk to – she was forthright, opinionated and generally older than the people managing her, so she found it easy to intimidate them. Some, less confident, managers would move from the first to the last step, skipping the middle stages entirely.

Eventually, Irene was given redundancy and received a cash payment, together with one month’s salary for every year she’d worked there. Everyone around her breathed a sigh of relief and made a little note to themselves that the consequence of continued poor behaviour is a large cash payout.

She never worked a full year over that ten-year period. Interestingly, though, Irene also participated in a local light operatic society: to the best of my knowledge, she never missed a rehearsal or a performance and I was reminded of Irene when I read this article. In particular, I was struck by the quote from Professor Cary Cooper: “if employers entrust their workers with flexible working, stress-related illness and sickness absence is lower and performance and productivity increases.”

What he’s talking about is an effort on behalf of employers to demonstrate the same flexibility and commitment they demand of their employees. While BA and its employees fight each other in the courts, politicians vilify bank employees and the country wonders whether it will still have a job in twelve months, perhaps Professor Cooper’s words point to a better way of working in the future. Perhaps one day, people like Irene – disengaged, unhappy, and reacting to being treated like a problem to be passed from pillar to post – will be treated differently. Perhaps an enlightened manager will one day tap the level of engagement she showed to her operatic society.

No Image Available

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!