Performance Management Blog

Moron Engagement – The Concept of Dis-Un-Engagement
Roadblocks Model - all four types

This post is about doing things differently. It is about looking for ways to remove the things that are un-engaging in the workplace.

Dis-Un-Engagement? Really? Yep!

I was reading all the comments on a long LinkedIn thread – “I’m looking for ideas on how to improve employee engagement? Any ideas will be greatly appreciated” and saw Judi Adams’ starting comment, “As you know, each person has different needs so there is no one bullet solution” and I had one of my occasional “odd thoughts.”

“Bullet” reminded me of a gun which linked over to Bob Mager’s work on performance and one of his test questions as to the need for training or something else:

“If you put a gun to their head, could they do it?”

The context of Mager’s thought is that if they COULD do it, then it is not a skill that needs to be trained but a behavior that needs to be “motivated.”

Thus, I wonder if we could “put a gun to the heads” of the “dis-engaged” and come up with THE relevant and actionable list of all of the things that would need to be present for people to feel more involvement, engagement and ownership. And we should do ONE list for each supervisor of a workgroup or each manager of a department get their people together to brainstorm ideas. Having HR generate an overall list of these things for the company would be totally inappropriate and would actually work against the un-engagement process that I suggest, Let each workgroup have the ownership – involvement of putting their list together. No other way will really work; they need some “sweat equity” involvement in this initiative to become engaged in the process and involved in the implementation.

Doing things TO people will not get them involved. Do things WITH them. Engage.

I do something similar with my concept of Dis-Un-Empowerment feeling that no one cannot empower people, that you can only empower yourself. Many people feel “un-empowered”  and the statistics support that. Yet managers can do many things to address and help people remove perceived and actual roadblocks and, thus, “Dis” them into irrelevance. Thus, Dis-Un-Empowerment. Simple! 


This can involve coaching and it can involve team building and problem-solving. Dis-un-engagement focuses on getting people to choose to do things differently and better manage their roadblocks.


The approach serves to get the “bad” ideas of the roadblocked, un-engaged people mixed in with the good ideas of the top performers, with the result that we build in peer support among the group for making individual improvements, along with getting people involved.  We make improvements and visibly address those issues brought up as dis-engaging. We involve and engage the un-engaged!

When we ask people what kinds of things are getting in the way of them feeling more ownership involvement and commitment, we will generate some good ideas. We can then make that list into a “To Do” list for managers and team leaders to address and change or improve.

A  simple impactful approach is to show people the Square Wheels One image and ask them about the workplace.

the main question about how the image represents how organizations really work.

From that discussion and from the ideas generated about the things that do not work smoothly, we can ask about what people can choose to do differently, what gets in their way and how we can deal with those roadblocks. We can simply be direct with the issue(s) and ask people for their thoughts and ideas for improving things.

Or, you can have a separate discussion about perceived roadblocks and do a simple analysis of each of them. Find a more detailed article about managing roadblocks and impacting employee turnover and retention here or on the image below. Engaging people decreases turnover.

Perspective and analysis of roadblocks allows one to take different actions to better manage them

I posted up something last June on this idea and wonder if anyone else has supporting ideas about how to accomplish this. I see it very closely aligned, from a facilitation standpoint, to our Roadblock Analysis process that we share above.

Roadblocks Model - all four types

Our model for understanding and dealing with roadblocks to performance improvement

The idea about dealing with perceived roadblocks is to get the whole list from everyone and especially the poor performers, process the list into actionable categories (sometimes having to delegate upward in the organization to solve) and ask for the involvement of the individuals to form teams and address, suggest and even implement ideas and solutions. It is a facilitated, group-oriented process that is involving by its very design.

The above is not the absolute answer, but my “moron” thought in the title is that I would add more on the ideas that people can have about workplace improvement and use the ideas around better roadblock management to dis-un-engage those people who have been choosing to allow things to block their performance. The better ideas already exist but these below average workers are not using them.

For the FUN of It!

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools.
Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant who is trying to retire!! He now lives in Cuenca, Ecuador.

You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Learn more about Scott at his LinkedIn site.

Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant, earning CPT and CPF credentials. -- You can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com and a detailed profile is here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottsimmerman/ -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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