My newest book is called The Stepford Employee Fallacy: The Truth about Employee Engagement in the Modern Workplace. It is meant to be a provocative and brutally honest indictment of the many ways employers are disengaging their talent. The Stepford Employee Fallacy is a set of misguided beliefs about how employee engagement works. These beliefs all stem from the assumption that employees will be perfect, happy, engaged robots regardless of what it’s like to work for their employer. It just doesn’t work that way. Humans don’t work that way.
Who is your target audience?
Anybody who’s in a leadership position, really. I dedicated the book to employees everywhere, but it’s their managers who need to read it. Management professionals—from front-line supervisors all the way up to C-level executives—will benefit from the lessons presented in The Stepford Employee Fallacy. There are some hard truths that they’ll find unpleasant to digest (and even harder to act upon), but that’s the only way they will ever move the engagement needle within their organizations.
Tell us something about yourself.
I grew up in Massachusetts and spent the entirety of my career working in the financial services industry there. One day I just became so fed up with the work, my bosses, the organization where I was working at the time, and the stalled momentum of my career. So I quit to start my own consultancy and to write a book telling the truth about what’s going on in the modern workplace from a down-in-the-trenches viewpoint. I’m often asked what makes me an expert on employee engagement. I first heard the term “employee engagement” years ago when I was an employee attending a mandatory presentation given by an organizational development consultant that our company had hired. His message was basically, “You all need to be more engaged in your jobs. If you don’t like it here, then you should leave.” And he was saying this to a group of employees who were overworked, underpaid, under appreciated, and treated like children by managers whose approach to leadership consisted of command-and-control dictatorship with a sprinkling of pot lucks, dumb contests, and insulting feel-good platitudes. They didn’t want a culture of engagement. They wanted a culture of obedience.
I remember thinking to myself, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. You can’t just expect employees to be engaged, especially if you treat them like toddlers or criminals.” So I spent the subsequent years educating myself, studying, and observing. I decided to dedicate my career to telling the world how employee engagement actually works: Employees don’t engage themselves. Leaders engage employees. Leaders also disengage employees through their decisions and behaviors. I’m passionate about my message because I know treating employees better isn’t just the right way to foster engagement, it’s the right thing to do, period.
What inspired you to write this book?
Over the years, I have heard and read about employee engagement from management consultants, HR practitioners, and other thought leaders who profess to have the definitive answers on this topic. Something about what they were all saying just didn’t sit right with me, though. These are people who haven’t been employees for many years, yet they claim to know better than employees how engagement works. They spread the notion that workers are responsible for choosing their own level of engagement in spite of the quality of their employee experience. That’s just wrong. Thinking back over my years working on the front lines, I reflected on all I had witnessed and experienced. One environment, in particular, served as inspiration for the book. It was a disturbing collision of factory-era autocracy and forced positivity. Employees were expected to be fully-engaged, smiling automatons who worshipped the company no matter what. If they objected to mistreatment or raised valid concerns, they were punished like children. So I decided to say what most employees today cannot: the truth.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I’m more of a sit-down-and-write kind of guy. I wrote the book in a fairly nonlinear fashion. I started with Chapter 3 and bounced around a bit. Whenever I felt inspired or a thought popped into my head, I would write about that, no matter where it fell in the structure of the book. I did have the basic outline planned from the beginning, but I didn’t necessarily stitch everything together in sequence. I knew what each chapter was going to be about, but the narrative and minutiae all came to me while I was writing.
Do you read reviews?
I do! The positive feedback is very rewarding and the constructive feedback helps me to be a better writer. So please go leave a review for my book on Amazon!
Do you have a daily or weekly writing schedule, or do you write only when you are inspired? How many words or pages do you complete in a typical day?
I set a goal to write one page per day. That didn’t always happen. Writer’s block is definitely a thing. There were some days when no matter how much I thought and how hard I banged my head on the table at Starbucks, the words would just not materialize on the page. I tell aspiring authors, when that happens, to remember it’s part of the process, that your brain is a muscle and some days it needs a break. Writing a book is a long process, and it takes a lot of grit, patience, and self-love to finish without going totally crazy.
What software do you use to write? Or do you prefer to write longhand or dictate your work? What made you choose the method you use?
I used a word processing app, Pages, on my iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard. That way I could write wherever and whenever I wanted, then back up everything on Google Drive.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Go with your gut. If you have a feeling deep down that you need to share your message with the world by writing a book, then trust what your gut is telling you and go for it. Don’t wait for anybody’s permission or ask for their opinion. There will be plenty of know-it-alls, nay-sayers, and bubble-bursters who want to tell you every reason why your book will fail. Do. Not. Listen. To. Them. There are over 7.5 billion people in the world. Aside from a trusted editor, one person’s OPINION should have zero bearing on your life’s work. I’ll tell you it’s not an easy journey. But every time it seems like it’s just too difficult, remember that gut feeling you had that this is what you were meant to do.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
They can visit my website https://cognizeconsulting.com to learn more about me and my business. My book’s web page https://cognizeconsulting.com/the-stepford-employee-fallacy/ is where they will learn about the book and can follow purchase links to major retailers like Amazon and Apple or buy direct from my publisher.