Engagement When The News is Bad

3 Minutes Read

“Go your own way after riding the coattails on the way up,” Balázs Kovács 


I’m a retro guy in some ways. I like originals, not reboots.  Hawaii 5-0 being the obvious exception.  One of the ways I am retro is that I still read newspapers.  Maybe it’s the feel of the paper or the smell of the ink. 

Being a CEO, one paper I read every day is The Wall Street Journal. Each day I read about layoffs here and layoffs there.  Many of us either know someone who has been laid off or have been laid off ourselves. 

Instead of sitting around with the bad day, bad news, mentality. Management also makes the employee feel more at ease, resulting in increased satisfaction.  

So what are the 3 leadership styles you see now? They are:  

  • Fear 
  • Supportive 
  • Inspiration 


Each one is unique and has different outcomes. Let me dive into them. 



This was popularized by Jack Welch and GE in the 1980s. Unfortunately, this concept still permeates many businesses today.  Many public corporations are focused on this leadership approach since it is effective in generating short-term results. “Do this or else”. The concept is to meet numbers for the quarter at the expense of everything else.  

This mentality is not exclusive to publicly traded corporations.  It can be found in all types of organizations.  It weakens morale, lowers initiative, and sinks engagement. Employees do just enough not to get fired and management and leadership focus on nothing but the numbers. It is the very climate that KangoGift is in business to fight.  



In the 14 years, and growing, that I’ve been CEO of KangoGift, this is the most typical environment of companies.  These companies value employees, wish to retain them, and want to recognize and reward them.  They follow the KangoGift philosophy of making employees feel like they are part of the larger organization and play a key role in its success.  

During times like these, they make sure their employees know that they are valued and that their contributions are respected and appreciated. It’s impossible for them to say no layoffs will happen but they give their employees that certain level of ease and put them in the mindset where they can contribute and where their efforts are appreciated.  This is the type of environment that makes everyone prosper.  



Think of a great business leader who has striven to be the person who wants to change the world. They are less interested in making money than most CEOs, Think Richard Brandson or Ryan Gellert of Patagonia. These two men dream big and as a result, their employees strive to be the type of employees who live off their ideals,  

A leader like this makes employees feel like they are part of a greater movement. During tough times they realize that they are not immune from the larger business environment, still, they believe they are doing a global good so it doesn’t bother them as much.  Managers of this style get the very best that can be offered because their employees want to achieve the same ends.  Managers here engage on both the personal level as well as the larger, greater good one.  

I’ve known these types of organizations through my work with KangoGift and know that engagement is quite strong and that the need to reward employees for their successes is a key part of the program.  The focus on their engagement is not on should we recognize our employees it is on how we should. 

So in these days where we see companies firing in seemingly large numbers here is what you need to do to make sure your employees aren’t being impacted by events outside your control. 

Don’t rule by fear--The GE model has been refuted and shown to destroy entirely. Employees will do just enough to not get fired.  They will fear innovating because they are afraid that the normal process of growing the market.  Engagement is, you don’t matter and you’re just a cost to be cut.  This is a failed model and companies like KangoGift are ignored because they don’t care about their employees never mind recognize them. 

Let employees know you have their back—This is the supportive method brought to life. It’s reassurance during bad times.  It’s not a promise that you won’t ever have to make layoffs down the road but it can be a reassurance of belief and conviction. It’s also another chance to reassure employees about how much they matter to the organization.  It’s the way you can demonstrate you’re more than a cog. Plus employees enjoy knowing someone is thinking about other issues so they can focus on work. 

Inspire your teams—People love working here because their leaders want to work for all of us, not just their egos. But you know what else? They love their employees.  That’s where I see the ego is not the thing.  They want to engage with their employees and they want to make sure that the employee sees themselves as part of the greater good. 

Let’s face the facts, times have been scary and workers have had no good news since who knows when.  Recent news has done nothing to make them feel better. You have 3 options to engage your employees. The question I have for you is which one will you use to help you in the long-term? 

Todd Horton