Changing Employees' Attitudes is Key to Effective Organizations
A landmark study finds that employees' emotions about work can adversely affect organizational success.In its study on work and human emotion, HR consulting giant, Towers Perrin and its research partner, Gang & Gang, found that more than half of the 1,100 North American workers they surveyed had
"negative" emotions about their work, while nearly a third had "intensely negative" emotions about their work.
The study, Working Today: Exploring Employees' Emotional Connection to Their Jobs, completed earlier this year, noted that workers' negative emotions adversely affect productivity, profitability, performance, and retention, key factors in organizational success.
In a surprising discovery, researchers cited that among the intensely negative group, a full quarter of the workers planned to remain with their current employer. Their conclusion implies that workers may be just "hanging on" to their present jobs without being engaged in, or by, their work, and that they may be only moderately engaged in their work. The implication is clear: workers who are not fully committed to their work may be hampering organizational success.
Another conclusion that impacts organizations, researchers concluded that disengaged employees may adversely affect coworkers with their negative attitudes.
Changing employees' attitudes
With such dour news on the workfront, how can managers change employees' attitudes from negative to positive, and enhance organizational success? What are the factors that influence positive attitudes and increase worker engagement?
First, workplace leaders must understand some of the underlying elements that may create emotionally distant workers. Researchers in the study reported that five elements contributed to most of the workers' negativity, including:
concerns about leadership effectiveness;
anxiety about job and financial security;
lack of challenging work, boredom, frustration; and
Negative emotions stemming from these factors spell trouble for employers, especially regarding retention. The study found that among the intensely negative group, nearly 30 percent were actively looking for new jobs, as opposed to only 6 percent of workers, who had positive emotions about work.
In the study, workers were asked to describe what their ideal work experience would entail. Their answers focused on the following elements:
having a sense of self-worth - having confidence, feeling competent and in control of their work and work experience;
seeing results - the contributions workers make in helping their organizations succeed; and
being rewarded and recognized - knowing that their contributions are recognized and compensated.
Knowing some of the factors that cause employees to be emotionally distant from their work, as well as some of the elements they value, work leaders can develop plans to dispel negativity, and increase positive emotions among their staff. Some elements managers should include in their plans:
Identify and communicate priorities. Managers can start changing employees' attitudes to a positive mindset by identifying and communicating priorities. Setting priorities with employees helps them to focus on important tasks, and may help to lessen some of the stress they feel when they're overwhelmed by a heavy workload. Identify work process breakdowns. Determine whether there are better or more productive work methods that staff members can employ. Get the right tools. Frustration often occurs when employees have insufficient or ineffective equipment to work with. Make sure employees have the appropriate tools to do the work.
Give them space. Managers should set expectations for the outcome, and provide direction only when needed. Allowing workers a greater sense of autonomy and authority in deciding how to conduct the work breeds trust, and invests employees in the process, as well as the outcome.
Provide training. Training helps employees to feel more competent in their jobs, and prepares them for greater responsibility and more challenging assignments. Confidence is a result of competence; training is the tool.
Talk to workers. Let employees know what is expected of them regarding performance, as well as how and where they "fit" in the organization. Employees need to know that their contributions make a difference. Select specific work examples to demonstrate their contributions. Staff meetings and one-on-one conversations are perfect venues to discuss how employees help the organization to succeed.
Keep employees informed. Employees want to feel like they are "in the know" about their department, and the organization as a whole. By sharing information, work leaders send the message that they trust and respect their staff. Employees will feel valued and will return their leaders' respect.
Listen. Talk to employees about their workplace concerns. Also, keep abreast of the grapevine for simmering issues - address them quickly and confidently. Dispel rumors with the facts. Be honest about mistakes and problems. Twisting the truth is never advised - employees have long memories and their trust may be lost forever.
Help employees feel less anxious about job security. Offer feedback about job performance - don't wait until review time to discuss behavioral issues. Talk to workers about their work challenges, and help to find solutions. Also, keep employees informed of departmental functioning; informing employees of events as the year progresses is better than communicating bad news later.
Reward employees for their efforts. Finally, managers must make sure employees are rewarded for positive behavior and contributions. Studies show that money isn't the motivator of choice for most people. Ask employees what motivates them. Showing genuine appreciation for an employee's work is often enough. Some workers, however, might appreciate having a positive letter placed in their personnel file recognizing a particular contribution. Others might appreciate greater challenges or consideration for high-profile assignments. For others, small perks can go a long way.
Warm regards Sujeet Kumar