Help us sharing our research, consultation and experiences

Donate Now

The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Forsaken desires: The dark side of Employee Engagement

What is being demanded from a worker's unconscious in organisational efforts to increase employee engagement? The concept of employee engagement has become a focus within organisations as a construct to provide, at its basest terms, another avenue to extract more in terms of performance and loyalty (organizational demands) and for the worker, a more meaningful and fulfilling work experience and environment (employee desires). We challenge the a priori acceptance of employee engagement as both a win/win and benevolent state of affairs within organizational life for the organization and its workers and ask the question - do these demands and desires also create a dark side to Employee Engagement? Previous academic research on engagement has previously come from a unitarist, normative and quantitative research based paradigm. Broadly, this research highlights mutuality and benevolence for both parties. We challenge that this is mutual and benevolent and draw upon Lacanian concepts of jouissance, desire and lack to demonstrate how the engagement agenda in organisations supports the metanarratives of success promoted in late capitalist organizational structures. How do we object to the position of mutuality in Employee Engagement? In contrast to previous research in this area, we propose the use of a qualitative lens and suggest that the feelings of loss/lack and desire in individuals are being commodified via organisational attempts to deliver increased levels Employee Engagement.