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The Engagement Palette

In the post entitled Choice in Engagement, I built on the idea that engagement is whole person investment in an interaction and emphasised that engagement is a choice.

In employee, customer, learner, user and other organisational engagement environments, individuals engage to a greater or lesser degree. Theorists and consulting organisations have posited that people can be situated on a continuum from actively disengaged (or similar term) to strongly engaged (or similar term). I suggest that identifying how engaged people are is more complex and more dynamic than this. Engagement is not a static construct.

I propose that it is helpful to recognise that individuals move around an engagement palette as they relate to multiple other entities in their context. Individual engagement can reflect varying levels of 4 primary states; engagement, disengagement, compulsion and depletion. These states are a product of the person’s desire or will to invest and the actual investment which they make.

High Volition X High Investment = Engagement. When someone invests their personal resources willingly, they are engaged to varying degrees. The more of their personal physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual resources they willingly invest, the more engaged they are.

Low Volition X Low Investment = Disengagement. When an individual does not have the will to invest and there is little evidence of personal investment, they are disengaged. People in this part of the landscape may be bored, disinterested, lazy or resigned.

Low Volition X High Investment = Compulsion. Sometimes employees, customers, learners and users may appear to be engaged. They invest significantly, especially their physical, social or intellectual resources. However, they do this because they feel compelled to do so, not because they really want to. In this case they are still choosing to invest, often to meet basic needs such as safety, psychological comfort or belonging. However, their higher order needs are not met, and they are seldom spiritually or emotionally invested. This group pf people include workaholics, obsessives, addicts and those who are abused or threatened. The lack of reward inherent in compulsive interactions places these individuals at risk of depletion.

High Volition X Low Investment = Depletion. The final state on the landscape is depletion. When people have the desire to invest but lack the resources to do so, they are depleted, burnt out, exhausted or bankrupt. The depletion may be absolute, in which case the person lacks the inherent resource to invest in any activity, or it may be relative in which case the person lacks the resources to engage with a specific entity.

In the next post, I will explore the Dynamics of the Engagement Palette

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