A bit of a theme during this summer is going to be ‘employee engagement’.

Even the phrase sounds old fashioned, doesn’t it? Echoing another time of hierarchies, of command and control.

(And what is ‘engagement’, any way?)

Lets begin a little un-picking of this oddly beached reminder of old corporate management lore.  I’m going to start with ‘tag’ questions.

Came across these in some commentary about the planned ‘Prisons and Courts Reform Bill’ in the Queen’s Speech.

Lots of (good) work is happening around the treatment of child witnesses, and the re-designing of court procedures to humanise the ordeal of giving evidence for children.
A tried and trusted questioning technique in court is to use ‘tag questions’.

A declarative statement is turned into a question.
‘ The policeman was kind to you, wasn’t he?’
‘ Mummy often shouted at Daddy, didn’t she?’

It’s a construction that leads the witness, suggests a ‘right’ answer, and is confusing.
This form of questioning is to be stopped where children are involved.

Then I looked at an employee survey in a medium sized Public Sector organization and found:

‘The management cared about helping you accomplish your personal
and professional development and career goals in a timely way?’

‘You are given opportunities to experiment and work in different ways

The structure is reminiscent of the ‘tag’ formation, isn’t it?

Whether you agree/ disagree, or rate the statement on a scale, the declarative statement makes it completely clear about the assumptions and expectations of ..‘the management’.

This is rather like confirmation bias.

Once you’ve noticed it you will see it everywhere.


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