Employee engagement – Crash & Burners

According to the BlessingWhite ‘X’ model of employee engagement, Crash & Burners rank among the top producers with medium to high contribution but get low satisfaction for themselves. They are described as disillusioned and potentially exhausted, critical regarding decision making (management) and colleagues having / taking it easy.

In consulting, junior consultants are good candidates for Crash & Burners. They usually get the chores like data crunching or all boring nitty-gritty tasks assigned while senior staff make the analysis and presentation. Juniors go through it well aware of their status but driven by ambition, experiencing their Crash & Burners phase. After some while, if they feel only squeezed out without proper compensation and promotion, they’ll quit. As the model says, “they can be bitterly vocal that senior leaders are making bad decisions or that colleagues are not pulling their weight”.

I cannot remember having met so many real Crash & Burners in industry. I believe true Crash & Burners are not that common compared to the many Hamsters in their wheels. The latter may complain about how much they work and how exhausted they are, but this is self-illusion at best and camouflaging reality most often.

One case among many similar I remember was a head of department harassed by his CEO for several reasons among which poor results of his department. This guy was desperate to improve the figures but couldn’t find the way. The more he tried, the burner he became as results didn’t correlate his efforts. The fact was he was not the best fit for the position. As so often, good engineers seldom make good managers.

The second case was a guy in charge of computing sales forecasting and material requirement. I first thought he was a Crash & Burners and at a point I really believed he could commit suicide. We focused on his problem and discovered he lacked the competencies for his job. He was multiplying trials to find a good way to forecast and schedule without the basic understanding of what it required. In reality he was not a Crash & Burners but a Hamster in a wheel, burning lot of energy for nothing and compared to genuine Hamster, didn’t get satisfaction.

Managing Crash & Burners

The real Crash & Burners and Hamsters that look alike are usually loyal and engaged until they reach their breaking point. It is therefore important for management and leaders to recognize the symptoms and help those people before losing them.

Helping Crash & Burners can come in many ways:

  • Check with them if they focus on the right things, as it is easy to burn energy on secondary targets or mismatching trivia with real priorities
  • Alleviating their difficulties with methods, tools and techniques they don’t know or do not master
  • Give them training and coaching, e.g. how to delegate, to prioritize, reflecting on their difficulties…
  • Consider adding a deputy or assistant
  • Consider business reengineering
  • Give Crash & Burners a “rest”, e.g. interesting project to lead, rotate chores, etc.
  • Praise what deserves praise and give credit, consider promotion
  • Check if another position would be better fit, without appearing as demotion

Crash & Burners are precious resources as they are contributors to company’s success and it would be a waste to lose them to competition or to the disengaged.

Not to forget, real good contributors may be popular and influent, if they slip into cynicism, aggressive passive behavior they may contaminate others in the organization and eventually leave with some of them.



The credit for BlessingWhite ‘X’ model of employee engagement goes to BlessingWhite.
I have no connections to BlessingWhite. Opinon, analysis and testimonies are all mine.

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