A review of The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement

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 Review by Karyne E. Messina, Ed.D   Author of Misogyny, Projective Identification and Mentalization: Psychoanalytic, Social and Institutional Manifestations

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This book is an invaluable resource for anyone who manages, supervises or participates with people in a work environment of any type.

Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter have captured the essence of what it means to connect with people in a company environment, healthcare practice, hospital and any number of other places where knowing what makes people successful matters. Their deep understanding of the human work psyche, their knowledge about each generation in today’s work force and their sense of what it takes to moves companies forward while retaining employees is impressive. Of particular importance is the attention they pay to transformation since staying with what is familiar is often the road that is most traveled. Doing things the tried-and-true way is a difficult obstacle to overcome. This is due to the fact that human beings by nature frequently have a hard time trying anything new.

In order to illustrate this point, I’ll share a story told by Louis Cozolino, MD, a well-known neuroscientist, in one of his recent books, The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social Brain (2017).

He said a man once asked him the difference between a rat and a human being. Wanting to play along, Cozolino asked for more information. This is essentially what the man said: If you have 5 tunnels and put a piece of cheese at the end of the 3rd tunnel, a hungry rat will find it because of its keen sense of smell and excellent spatial memory. If you set up the same test the next day but move the cheese and put it at the end of the 5th tunnel, the rat will go to the 3rd tunnel and look for the cheese. However, when it is clear the cheese is no longer there, the rat will move on to look for it someplace else because the rat is a realist. He knows the cheese isn’t there so he moves on.   On the other hand, a human being will keep looking for the cheese at the end of the 3rd tunnel because he or she expects it to be there since it was there that it was found originally.

Adding more information about the reason for this curious phenomenon, the man added that after several generations in the human being’s world there will be rituals, philosophies and religions set up to focus on the the 3rd tunnel, gods will be invented to rule over it and its cheese and demons will be created to inhabit the other tunnels. While the rat has no need to continue the search in the face of failure, human beings are experts at coming up and faithfully adhering to the beliefs they have created. They apparently want the cheese to be where they found it the first time. Getting them to look elsewhere is something new and new is frequently not perceived as good.

Helping people feel successful and good about what they do while meeting the goals of any enterprise is a result of authentic engagement. This can most effectively be achieved by helping people learn new ways of safely navigating in the world in their jobs, with their fellow employees and managers and at times in their personal lives.

Beginning the process of looking elsewhere for the cheese in the work environment can be a game-changing process; a process that the authors of The Non-obvious Guide know well. The information they provide in their book can be applied to organizations of any size.  Success can be achieved with engaged, innovative employees who respectfully collaborate with people on all rungs of the corporate latter while striving to achieve company goals as they find ways to move beyond the 3rd tunnel. 

Maddie and Jamie know how to find the cheese in new places. By following the pathway to success they have created, anyone who is in a leadership role can find it too.

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References

Cozolino, L. (2017). The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social Brain, New York: W. W..Norton & Company.