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The Dark Side of High Employee Engagement: Is it creating Unrealistic Expectations?
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The Dark Side of High Employee Engagement: Is it creating Unrealistic Expectations?

Gaurav Sharma
December 8, 2022

According to Statista, 65% of employees globally feel engaged in their work. 

Global Employee Engagement statistics

It is a proven fact that when you engage your employees well, it boosts performance and employee retention.

But there is a dark side of high employee engagement too, which can lead to disappointments and plenty of negativity. 

Organizations today crave to hire talent that’s highly motivated, focused on their roles, and ‘fully there’ no matter what the job demands. 


A high-performing workforce can help scale up innovation, boost productivity, and give the company an edge over its competitors. 

And the secret to finding and retaining such employees is quality employee engagement. The more you care for their physical, mental, and emotional wellness, the better their performance. 

However, as vital as it is, we have seen a dark side of employee engagement in recent years.

The negative impact of employee engagement can be felt by the organization as well as the employees.

Let us take a look at the ill effects of high employee engagement and how it can cause harm if not handled smartly. 

Also read : The Ultimate Employee Engagement Guide for 2022

6 Ways High Employee Engagement Can Have a Negative Impact 

The dark side of high employee engagement is very much real and here are 6 negative effects of employee engagement you need to watch out for.

1. Being Complacent 

One of the most evident effects of the dark side of employee engagement is complacency.

It is true that well-engaged employees are highly motivated. But it’s also possible that they could get comfortable with the status quo and stop innovating

Being appreciated and incentivized for the smallest efforts can make employees feel too satisfied. It could make them less likely to push their limits.

In fact, it is observed that over-optimism and pride may lead people to be resistant to change, curiosity and innovation. 

Take, for instance, a marketing team that has been using ClickFunnels for long. They may resist switching to better ClickFunnels alternatives to avoid getting out of their comfort zone.

As a result, a booming company may easily turn stagnant. And that's one of the major effects of the dark side of employee engagement

2. Creates a Feeling of Job Ownership 

Psychologists say that highly engaged employees often identify with the job, treating it as their ‘extended self.’

The company culture might give rise to a sense of job ownership which, when taken positively, can help employees outperform employers’ expectations. They may go beyond their limits to prove their worth. 

But on the dark side, these employees may get too possessive with their jobs.

If they are used to generating sales reports in a certain way to know effective SDR onboarding, for example, they may show resentment if changes are brought in. 

In some cases, they may even feel that their personal space has been violated and end up questioning the management.

It may lead to disagreements and toxic work environments, a dark side of employee engagement. 

3. Experience Burnout Faster 

While we are discussing the dark side of employee engagement, one of the most common ill effects observed is employee burnout

When employees are highly motivated, they tend to put aside their personal life and make work their primary focus.

There’s no doubt this can contribute to career growth and push the organization forward. It also help you keep down the employee turnover. But there is an inevitable risk attached to it too. 

Workaholics often sacrifice their family time and even health for work. This sacrifice eventually affects the physical and mental well-being of the individual.

They begin showing signs of exhaustion, lack of enthusiasm towards their work, and poor performance. This eventually hampers the growth of the organization.

Also read : How to confront your boss about your heavy workload

4. Favoring Certain Types of Personalities

Most HR teams are burned out.

Employees’ expectations are always increasing, and the changing role of HR has broadened their responsibilities and only made matters worse.

To reduce their workload and also boost engagement scores, companies may choose to hire only positive and creative thinking and optimistic employees. In reality, these people are always motivated, irrespective of the degree of engagement the organization creates. 

On the other hand, they may end up sidelining the more timid and pessimistic personalities. 

That's the dark side of employee engagement.

It may give undue advantage to one type of personality over another while in reality, both types of personalities may perform equally well under different job contexts. 

5. Taking Fear Out of the Equation

Fear can never be considered a positive trait. But an element of fear may actually act as motivation for employees to keep pushing themselves to put their best foot forward. 

The dark side of employee engagement is that it has taken fear out of the equation.

When employees do not have the fear of negative feedback, they tend to lose their competitive spirit. 

When employees are duly informed about the implication of underperformance, they are more mindful of their responsibilities. They are unlikely to take their position for granted, which can create a negative impact of employee engagement.

Even in a group, individuals can collaborate better and pull each other along to avoid a downfall.

6. Eliminating Negative Thinking

Do you know that pessimistic people can sometimes be better problem solvers than positive people? That’s because they can see a challenge from a different perspective.

Expecting the worst means pessimists’ solutions cover most possible obstacles that may occur in the future.

Life coaches help people to keep positive thought towards their professional and personal life to get success and have the perfect work-life balance.

But a major dark side of employee engagement is that it gradually eliminates negative thinking. Employees feel so positive that they forget to question their actions and motives and rethink every decision.

A bit of stress and discontent can motivate a person to think out of the box and come up with revolutionary and ironclad ideas.

Whether it’s coming up with ideas for Instagram marketing or managing a Laravel development company, a little negative thinking can lead to finding trend-setting ideas and solutions. This can have negative effects on employee engagement.

Closing Thoughts

Organizations need to focus on employee engagement. But they also have the responsibility of building a well-balanced business culture.

A dark side of high employee engagement is that it can adversely affect this culture and the productivity of employees in multiple ways. 

As a leader, spot the gaps in your employee engagement program that are causing the dark side of employee engagement we’ve discussed above

Go ahead and use these insights to redesign your program and reap its benefits.

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The Dark Side of High Employee Engagement: Is it creating Unrealistic Expectations?

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October 25, 2021

A very inspiring list. Thanks for putting this together


October 25, 2021

This is such a great list of women leaders! More power to you all

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