Her neck stiffened, her jaw clenched, and her words strained from disbelief or anger: “We don’t need employees’ input on strategy. We’re the board. They do as we say.
And with that, the board president’s proclamation ended.
The smell of antiquity gushed from her mouth as she uttered her words. Satisfied with her message and ignorant to its implications, the board president managed to reinforce the moat between her ivory tower and employees.
In one harrumph her traditional perspective disregarded the countless stories of commitment displayed in late nights and missed family events—even the battle scars from project implementations.
Waved off with the proverbial “It’s their job” remark, the board president’s words dehumanized the workplace and those in the arena with blood, dirt and tears marring their faces.
It’s common. It’s unfortunate. And it chips away at employee engagement.
Why should the board care about employee engagement?
1. Employee engagement affects corporate growth.
Board members who disregard the collective narrative of employees’ contributions disassociate themselves from corporate reality. When you view employment as a means to a profitable end, you alienate people. Alienated people stop caring. Hard work, creativity and innovation suffocate, which negatively influences corporate growth goals.
2. A company‘s culture exists to support employees.
Board members who view the organization from an ivory tower will not understand the culture in which managers and employees work. Board members are also stewards of the corporate culture. They are not culture renegades. A company’s culture isn’t supposed to support the board; it supports those who must implement the solutions that align with the business’s mission.
3. Employees grow disillusioned when the board tells them they don ‘ t matter.
When a board’s actions are incongruent with the company’s values and mission, the board tells all employees and customers that the organization’s purpose doesn’t matter. Employees grow disillusioned and discontent as the board waters down the business’s reason for existence.
Employee engagement is a board concern. The board’s actions influence and shape results and the work environment. Outdated, dehumanizing perspectives of employees broadcast a message that employees don’t matter. Eventually employees will view the board as out of touch, arrogant and useless to the purpose of the organization.
We don’t need more useless and outdated management beliefs.
A version of this article originally appeared on SAP’s Business Innovation blog.