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I Can Even! Engaging Employees by Enabling Employees

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A popular phrase which is most annoying is “I can’t even.” According to the Urban Dictionary, “I can’t even” means that the person is so overwhelmed with emotion they cannot function. However, in the workplace, “I can’t even” often means that the person is frustrated or unwilling to do a work task. Even with the best efforts to engage employees, not enabling employees will lead to frustration.

Mark Royal and Tom Agnew, in their 2012 book The Enemy of Engagement, explain why enabling employees are just as important as engaging employees. “Frustration is created for those employees who are thwarted in their attempts to be successful despite their deep feelings of commitment and engagement. In other words, frustration is brought on by a belief in the organization and a desire to help it to be successful!” (p. 29)

Employee holding his head in frustration.

Frustrated employees solve their problems in one of three ways. The frustrated employee looks for a breakthrough or a solution to his or her frustrations. Or, the frustrated employee has a breakdown. Finally, a frustrated employee may make a clean break from the organization and its frustrations.

Royal and Agnew give the following suggestions for building employee enablement:

Performance Management (p. 134)

Specify clearly what employees need to accomplish.

Set challenging but attainable performance standards.

Provide ongoing feedback regarding progress relative to goals.

Authority and Empowerment (p. 136)

Give employees the authority and decision-making responsibility needed to do their jobs.

Allow employees to have input into the way their work is structured.

Encourage employees to come up with new and better ways of doing things.

Resources(p. 137)

Give employees the resources they need to do their jobs.

Ensure all information needed is readily available and up-to-date.

Maintain adequate staffing levels and review job designs and workloads when the organization changes.

Training (p. 139)

Get new employees fully trained before expecting full performance.

Ensure skills of current employees keep up with changing job demands.

Provide opportunities for employees to expand their current skill sets.

Collaboration (p. 140)

Facilitate strong cooperation and teamwork within the unit.

Establish supportive relationships with other groups to which the unit is connected.

Promote effective sharing of resources and information across the organization.

Work, Structure, and Process (pp. 141-142)

Structure and organize work processes within your unit to ensure optimal efficiency.

Coordinate with other units to clarify decision-making accountabilities and enhance cross-unit operating effectiveness.

Continually seek new technologies and creative approaches to improve overall internal effectiveness.

By following these 18 actions, you can have your employees saying, “I CAN even!” instead of “I CAN’T even!”