Some new research about workplace behavior caught my attention recently. It highlights -- by omission -- the important link between an organization's management culture and the psychological experience of working within it. That's a link that needs to be examined, but often isn't; and this study illustrates that gap. It found that people who report feeling emotionally engaged and connected with their work and their organizations also experience greater psychological well-being.
That finding may sound obvious, though it's always good to have empirical data confirm the obvious. In this case, it shows that if you're among the fortunate ones who feel engaged and positive about your work and management, you're likely to experience a greater sense of wellbeing. The problem is, most people aren't so fortunate, as surveys repeatedly show. But this study does expose important questions, raised by its own findings:
What, exactly, promotes a sense of emotional connection with your work to begin with? And how might that increase your overall sense of well-being?
First, let's look at the study, conducted in Denmark and published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. It examined the well-being and other health-related outcomes in 5,000 Danish workers. Among employees in various workgroups the study found significantly higher well-being concerning "the employee's emotional attachment to, identification with, and involvement in the organization." Those employees also had lower sickness absence rates and fewer sleep disturbances.
The lead author, Thomas Clausen, suggests that efforts to increase emotional connection with work may lead to a happier, healthier workforce. Of course. That makes good sense, and most companies would likely agree. The problem is that a positive sense of connection with work requires several conditions and factors that organizational leadership often fails to recognize or address. Among the most important are, in my view:
- Does senior leadership promote a positive work culture, in which workers are valued and provided opportunities for continued learning and development?
- Is diversity encouraged and valued in practice, not just in company mission statements?
- Is there a workaholic and/or sexist management culture permeating the organization?
- Perhaps most importantly, do employees experience a sense of impact their work has upon the product or service the company provides? The latter appears increasingly important to younger workers, as surveys show.
I've written about these issues previously, and they are crucial for long-term, sustainable success within today's environment - one of increasing interconnection, transparency and constant flux; of rapid technology change and generational shift regarding values, life goals; and how people are redefining personal and career success.
dlabier@CenterProgressive.org Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., is director of the Center for Progressive Development, and writes its blog, Progressive Impact. For more about him on The Huffington Post, click here.