Mastering Employee Engagement | Walk A Mile In Someone Else's Shoes

Many discussions around employee engagement ideas focus on getting employees more engaged in their work but overlook getting them more engaged with each other, to the detriment of the company. 

Few employees work in total isolation, devoid of any involvement with other workers. 

In fact, it is these interactions with your boss or coworkers that can be a leading reason you become disengaged in the first place. Not because they are bad people but because everyone is an individual with their own ideas, values, and perspectives...and sometimes these values or perspectives are not in alignment with your own.

Sometimes the easiest remedy is to mix things up a bit and get everyone to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. This technique is an effective way to see the world through a coworker's eyes and better understand why they do what they do or say what they say


This was the comment made to me over dinner a couple of years ago by friend of a friend. He was a sales executive in a large retail chain.

When I heard this, I could have launched into a heated debate (also called an 'argument') with him, made a few unkind suggestions on what he could do with his salad fork, and walked out of the restaurant vowing to never speak with him again.

In other words, I could have done what coworkers do every single day...I could have taken his comments personally, at face value, and decided to have as few interactions with him in the future as possible.

Not a big deal for me since I didn't work with him

It would have been a big deal if he and I worked together or he was my boss.

Instead, I decided to "walk a mile in his shoes" and learn more about his perspective on HR so that I may better understand why he believed what he did.

I chose awareness over vilification...understanding over condemnation.

And we have since become good friends.


Through a series of carefully thought out questions, I chose to learn how my dinner companion had arrived at his conclusions about HR

He explained that his job was to increase the product sales of his company. The more time he spent dealing with non-sales related personnel issues, the less time he had to "do what he got paid for", as he put it. 

When employees issues arose that had nothing to do with sales he would pass them along to HR. The HR group in his company, however, usually put it back on his plate quoting some dated company policy.

Right or wrong, the fact that his needs were not being met by HR led to his perspective that HR was useless and refused to engage with them again. 

Looking at it through his eyes, I could see how he could become extremely frustrated with his HR department...especially if they offered little guidance on what types of issues they could help with. 

However, I also learned that his perspective was established based on his experience with a single HR group. He hadn't had an opportunity to work with some of the fantastic HR professionals I have had the pleasure of working with. 

His perspective was based on very incomplete information.


I recently read in the news about the experience of Quanell X, the head of the Black Panther Party in Houston, Texas, who has been extremely critical of police actions involving the us of force in the United States.

Like all of us, Quanell had developed a set of beliefs and perspectives based on the environment in which he grew up and the experiences he has accumulated throughout his life. 

Like all of us, Quanell's perspectives were based limited information and often conflicted with the perspectives of others (e.g. police officers) whose beliefs were based on a different set of experiences. 

The result (from what has been reported in the media) was that Quanell rarely engaged with police officials in a productive way, instead resorting to blame and criticism.

Whether this occurs in the realm of social activism or your workplace's operational environment, when conflicting beliefs prevent people from engaging in meaningful interactions, opportunities are always lost.

The story of Quanell doesn't end here, however, because Quanell recently accepted an invitation by the Missouri City police department to participate in use of force exercises. 

What he learned from this experience elevated his awareness and significantly aided him in better understanding why police, generally speaking, do as they do. 


When put through a series of real-life situations police face, Quanell discovered that he responded to perceived threats in a way that surprised even him...

...He drew his gun.

While Quanell's belief that police may still be too quick to use deadly force remains unchanged, his new awareness and understanding of the conditions under which police use force has shifted

In fact, Quanell even makes the suggestion that there should be more police officers assigned to each vehicle allowing improved situational awareness. 

From blame and criticism to understanding and engagement. This is the power of walking a mile in someone else's shoes.


...Getting employees to see past their limited, self-centric perspectives to better understand why their managers and coworkers behave the way they do.

This enables employees to understand why a decision was made or an action taken rather than simply resorting to disagreeing and labelling the other person a "jerk" or "idiot". 

As workers become more willing to work together, they do so in a more effective manner to get the job done.

Cooperative action occurs as workers come together more frequently to effectively leverage the knowledge and experience of each other.

The result is a team of employees who actively work together to find innovative solutions, opportunities for increased efficiencies, and new sources of advantage that benefits both the company and its employees. 


When companies successfully engage their employees, those employees will be more committed and motivated to perform their duties to the best of their abilities. 

However, when these same employees are unwilling to engage with their coworkers, due to differences in beliefs, perspectives, and values, all of the hard work management has done to engage their employees in their work breaks down.

Only when employees are able to get past these differences, through an increased awareness and understanding of why others do what they do and say what they say, will they be willing to actively and repeatedly work closely with one another to achieve the company's goals.

Engagement between employees can become even more of a challenge when various generations, each with their own values and perspectives, are thrust together. Find out how to get employees of different generations to come together and work cooperatively. Click the button below.