Engagement in Greece? Work perception in an international perspective

Merel Wijnands

It’s all over the media: it looks like Greece will not meet the required 11.5 billion in cutbacks. How does this affect the engagement of Greek employees? In spite of the current situation in Greece, the Global Employee Engagement Index™ shows that 24.5% of Greek employees are engaged with their work and committed to the organisation.

The score in an international perspective

Is this a good score? It’s average. The Greek score is close to the European average of 25.2%. In spite of these nice, neat average scores, 12.8% of the Greek population indicates it has the intention to leave. To what extent is this engagement pure and sincere? This will always be the question, as long as the context remains uncertain.

The impact of high unemployment

Just like Spain, Greece is also facing a high rate of unemployment. In April 2012, unemployment had risen to a record high of 22.0%. This creates even more unrest, and has an impact on the engagement of employees. Another effect is the repercussions of growing unemployment on government revenue. Tax revenue has declined since workers are receiving lower salaries, and the number of bankruptcies is growing amongst Greek companies. A vicious circle? We will probably read about it in the media; after all, it’s full of news on this subject.

Survivor syndrome

One danger for a country in which great uncertainty prevails is survivor syndrome. In uncertain times, employees can display unpredictable behaviour. Employees respond out of fear or anger; in other words, their actions are based on a survival instinct. Socially desirable behaviour is also the order of the day since mutual trust is decreasing. Once employees show a high degree of survivor syndrome, it is difficult for organisations to anticipate ‘stormy weather’ in a specific manner. As a result, organisations don’t make as much progress, or in the worst case, cease to exist.

Retaining employee motivation

Clarity, consistency in communication and good leadership are important mainstays for keeping employees motivated. Even if the message isn’t always rosy, clarity gives them a solid foothold, and this is what employees need. If we look at the current role-clarity factor in Greece, we see a fairly high percentage of 33.5% for lack of role clarity. For the purpose of comparison, in the Netherlands, role ambiguity is 18.6%.

Colleagues and remuneration score low

What are the other employee survey results seen in Greece? Greece scores below the European average for all of the elements of employership. The most striking of these low scores are a 3.6 for remuneration and a 6.3 for colleagues (on a scale of 0 to 10). The European average is 4.8 for remuneration and 7.2 for colleagues. One sign of survivor syndrome is that employees have less trust in others (colleagues), so they fall back on the basic factors of work (remuneration). The writing is on the wall. This is only logical; the situation is very uncertain right now for employees in Greece.

On a smaller scale, we see that organisations in difficulty may also have to contend with survivor syndrome, a lack of role clarity and (perhaps false) engagement. Clarity, consistency in communication and good leadership are also essential for keeping employees motivated in these situations. Even though it seems the situation in Greece is not occurring in the Netherlands, it is an extremely interesting case in terms of the lessons you can apply for your own organisation (should you recognise certain aspects).

The Global Employee Engagement Index is the ultimate international benchmark tool Effectory has for providing insight into work perception worldwide. Effectory International has analysed the data (which includes data on employee engagement) from this benchmark and published it in a report.