Leadership Yawns As Employees Check-Out

Joseph Jaworski Posted by Joseph Jaworski.

Joseph is the founder and chairman of both Generon International and the Global Leadership Initiative. He is the author of Source: The Inner Path of Knowledge Creation.

Leadership Yawns As Employees Check-Out

That “we are” – The Connective Tissue of Humans Being 

                                    “We are one, after all, you and I,
      together we suffer, together exist and forever will recreate each other.”
                                                                                     – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

We often read of the latest business bestsellers whose grand headlines tout the importance of employees, or we hear dynamic speeches about how a companies workers are its most valued resource. So why when we dig deeply do we find so many instances of low morale and high turnover, why are we inundated with stories of unhappy workers?  

Luckily below, Bernie Nagle has shared with us some of his deeply felt ideas along with some enormous insight.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star-stuff. – Carl Sagan

As the story is told, in the summer of 1969 Joni Mitchell chose an appearance on the Dick Cavett Show over a trip to Max Yasgur’s farm and in so doing missed out on her piece of rock and roll history as a performer at the epic spectacle known as Woodstock. She did however manage to insert herself forever into the remembrance of that event by penning “Woodstock”, the anthem. The song was first performed by her at The Big Sur Rock Festival a month after Woodstock, and subsequently included on her 1970 “Ladies of the Canyon” album. A decidedly up-tempo version would of course be made megafamous by CSNY on their “Déjà vu” release, one of the great albums of our time. So why begin a leadership blog with a rock history lesson?

“We are stardust; we are golden; we are billion year old carbon”
– Joni Mitchell

In the chorus of her boomer hymn the incomparable Ms. Mitchell observed “we are stardust; we are golden; we are billion year old carbon” and for the last 45 years these three succinct sentences have teased us into an awkward commingling of philosophy, science and spirituality. Whether you encamp with the brilliantly agnostic Carl Sagan, the spiritual and metaphysical giant, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, or the many hundreds of millions who profess even the most elementary belief in the brotherhood of man, you cannot deny the tingling tug of cosmic energy emanating from the fact of our common humanness. Whether you believe we were meticulously hewn from primordial clay by the hand of a benevolent God, or haphazardly concocted out of big-bang celestial soup, our most elemental common denominator lies buried deep within the meaning of this simple expression: “we are”.

So to what higher object might we apply this awareness as we contemplate the role of the leader?


Status quo in the overwhelming majority of corporations is a myopic focus on “Humans Doing”. MBO (management by objective) and all its mutant progeny have sprouted tentacles into every aspect of modern organizational endeavor. For a host of legalistic and utilitarian reasons, individual contributors (once known as “people”) have been herded into an increasingly banal collection of sanitized HR classifications, comprised of unprejudiced strictly-job-related capabilities, descriptors and coded rankings. Absent are any references to personal attributes: likes, dislikes, non-work-related interests, expertise, relationships, accomplishments or idiosyncrasies. God help the soul who inserts anything into the conversation or the HR file that in any way refers to Jane or John Doe as an authentic, sentient, exquisitely unique “person”.

88% of Americans feel that they work for a company
that does not care about them as a “person”
– Raj Sisodia

Over the last thirty years a phalanx of federal judges, legislators, race hustlers, gender warriors and slick, HR paralegals have neutered our ability to treat with people as multi-faceted individuals. In the race to a politically correct bottom, we have tripped over ourselves to create increasingly inoffensive newspeak for communicating at work. The linguistically homogeneous 21st century workplace compels us to conduct all manner of interaction within a precisely constructed context of “humans doing”, while simultaneously erecting obstacles to reaching out to each other as “humans being”. It is pounded into us from the first day on the job, “leave your personal life at home.” Person-ness has been left bloodied and battered along the roadside by this decades-long march toward a sanitized, dystopian uniformity in the workplace.

So is anyone really surprised to hear, year after year, the dismal statistics on employee engagement? Do we even flinch anymore when we hear that anywhere from 70% to 85% of the global workforce is either “checked out” or actively disengaged? In their most recent “State of the American Workplace” report, Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 to $550 billion per year. Do these kinds of numbers even move the dial on corporate dashboards? Is anyone in the C-Suite even paying attention?

Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs
the U.S.$450 billion to $550 billion per year.

Since few things in life are simple, the answer to the above question is “yes”…and “no”. There is a small cohort of enlightened CEOs, well documented by Dr. Raj Sisodia in his co-authored books, “Conscious Capitalism” and “Firms of Endearment”, who actually “get it”. These CEOs demonstrate a willingness to invest the hard work of authentic, inspirational leadership required to recover substantial portions of that $500 billion within their organizations. And the data cited in his books are clear and unequivocal – the path of Conscious Leadership leads to exceptionally successful organizations.

Regrettably, the vast majority of C-Level Execs and organizations are either not paying attention to the generative power of discretionary effort or they have simply chosen to disregard the alarm bells going off at the operating income line. They discount the compelling, encyclopedic volumes of data (Gallup, DDI, Towers Watson, Accenture, Deloitte) and choose to avoid a path of intentional engagement with the workforce. Of course any thinking individual with half a wit about them would immediately ask, “why?”  Why would otherwise intelligent, immensely clever B school superstars choose to ignore and squander an enormous source of latent profitability?

“When businesses successfully engaged their employees…
they experienced a 240% BOOST in performance-related outcomes.”
– State of the American Workplace Report, Gallup

Why indeed!

This time the answer is really quite simple – Because pursuing an intentional path of engagement requires three things C-Level Execs avoid like Ebola: Change, Change, and Change!

Continue Reading More “We Are” on Bernie’s Site

Please email me at: [email protected]  Follow on Twitter:  @Altrupreneur  Website: Altrupreneur.com

Connect with: Bernie on Linkedin  Or join our Linkedin Discussion Group at:  Altrupreneurs Creating Enthusiastic Engagement

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