When you hear about employee engagement, you likely think about how to ensure you increase and maintain high levels of engagement in the workplace…after all, studies show that engaged employees are more productive. However, do you ever think about whether your employees are over-engaged and the problems which may arise from over-engagement?

In reading a recent article about job loss and subsequent identity loss for some people, it became clear that it is possible for employees to become over-engaged in their work and over-identifying with their jobs. Workers with a great passion and interest in their work may be at risk for over-engagement.

The upside of over-engagement is that a job may not feel like work if the employee feels a personal connection and passion for the work. It may in fact feel like a dream job if personal and work interests are interconnected. On the surface these are likely attributes employers feel make positive contributions to their work sites.

Unfortunately, over-engaged workers may:

  • Identify strongly with their jobs thereby losing personal identity
  • Have unclear boundaries between work and personal life
  • Find it easy to sacrifice family, friends, and health for the sake of their jobs

In a turbulent economy, over-engaged individuals may be at risk of experiencing personal collapse if they lose their jobs. They may be more likely to experience workplace stress and burnout and the resulting stress-related illnesses can be incredibly costly to already over-burdened employees.

Here are some tips for ensuring employees aren’t over-engaged

  • Make vacation mandatory
  • Don’t make “busy a badge of honour”
  • Avoid rewarding those who work constant overtime and penalizing those who don’t
  • Employers should model valuing personal time by taking vacation, leaving early/on-time
  • Reward quality not quantity
  • Encourage volunteer work or involvement in community-based projects
  • Support health and wellness initiatives in the workplace

Life Strategies Ltd. offers a range of training opportunities, workshops, and services related to work-life sustainability, managing stress in the workplace, and healthy workplaces. For more information, visit: http://www.lifestrategies.ca/

Originally posted June 10, 2009 by Krista Maydew

Shifting Priorities Blog

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