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26th Oct, 2023

Peter Parkin-Child
Peter Parkin-Child
Job Title
Head of HR & People Projects

A totally engaged workforce is the utopia for businesses and employees alike, but is there a limit to how much you should engage with your employees? Can you overdo it and end up harming, rather than helping, the relationship? 

In a word, yes. As with anything, there are nuances and subtleties to consider: one person’s micro-managing boss is another’s fount of knowledge to learn from. I guess what I’m trying to say is there is light and shade to this topic and so it’s about striking the right balance for your organisation and workforce. 


So, let’s get the negatives out of the way first. The temptation to over engage with your employees can lead to issues including: 

Too much noise and not enough focus 

If you are constantly communicating with your employees, asking for and giving feedback, directing how problems should be solved and making decisions for them, you may unintentionally undermine their ability to work independently and creatively. Too much engagement can create unrealistic expectations, overwhelm your employees with information and pressure, and reduce their autonomy as they look to you for answers and guidance when they should be trusting their own experience and judgement.  

Increasing stress and frustration 

Over engaging with your employees can make you (and them) lose sight of the big picture and focus too much on the details. You may also overload them with information, requests and tasks that they then struggle to prioritise. This can lead to increased stress, anxiety and burnout among your employees, as well as yourself, and may leave them feeling frustrated and resentful as they don’t have a clear idea of what is expected of them. 

Reducing trust and respect 

If you are overly involved and intrusive in your employees’ lives (both inside and outside the workplace) through initiatives, workshops or advice, you may signal that you do not trust or respect their competence, judgement or opinions. At worst, it could be taken to mean that you have to fix all of their problems as they are not capable of doing so themselves. Instead, ask employees what they would like your help with, or information about, and then arrange workshops to address these issues. 


Ok, that’s the what-not-to dos covered. So, how can you avoid over engaging with your employees and find the right balance? 

Choose the right messenger 

Be consistent about who engages on what topics, so that employees have some sense of where communications will come from. Ideally it will be senior leaders who communicate the vision, mission and objectives of the organisation, and managers will interpret these into more specific communications, goals and targets for their teams. This will help you align your engagement efforts with the strategic direction and priorities of the organisation and ensure that messages are delivered by the appropriate people. 

Consider your audience 

Be mindful of who you are looking to engage with and ensure that communications are relevant and appropriate – there’s no point extolling the virtues of a specific initiative via company-wide comms if it only applies to a small percentage of the employee population. Instead, use a targeted approach that does not clutter up other communications that may be issued.  

Consider your medium 

There are a whole host of ways to communicate with employees – blogs, vlogs, emails, workshops, huddles to name but a few – and you want to ensure that the way you deliver your comms not only complements the message but also reaches the right people. It’s important therefore to consider which medium of communication will work best to engage your audience and get your message across. 

Develop a comms calendar 

Much like considering your audience, also think about when and how you will be communicating across the year. Take some time to decide when your key initiatives/processes/external events will take place and plan the associated communications accordingly. Identify your key communicators and seek to coordinate their timetables so that multiple messages are not being sent, and lost, at the same time. 

Sell the benefits 

Engagement is not just about telling employees about stuff; it’s about getting them to buy into the message too. The most effective communications are those that highlight the benefits to the audience so that they understand the reason behind the communication and what it is doing to make their lives easier/better/more productive. It’s therefore worth taking the time to craft communications and engagement pieces to highlight these benefits.  

Respect boundaries 

Respect your employees’ personal and professional boundaries, and do not intrude on their privacy or autonomy. Be mindful of how your communications are crafted and the messages contained within – even down to things like when messages are issued and expected to be read. It is important to give employees their own space and time, so you need to find the right balance of what you can reasonably ask of them. 

Trust and respect in the workplace are built over time and can be easily eroded by a thoughtless act. To maintain a positive work environment, always consider the impact of your engagement on a diverse workforce and have a clear strategy of what you hope to achieve from every communication.   

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