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Thought Leader: Harnessing emotions in Employee Engagement

Shot of two young woman working together on digital tablet. Creative female executives meeting in a office using tablet pc and smiling.

In business, whether we’re entry-level employees or senior executives, we all have a manager we report to. Employee engagement studies have consistently shown that our relationship with our manager is critical to our engagement in the workplace and our feelings about our employer.

New research provides insight on how emotions – both positive and negative – alter employee engagement levels. A recent study by Dale Carnegie shows that while previous efforts to increase employee engagement were driven by practical rewards such as pay increases, bonuses or flexible working hours, “it is the feeling-based personal relationships that have the greatest influence, causing engaged employees to work effectively, stay with their company and act as ambassadors for their organization.”

In a nationwide study of 1,500 employees, Dale Carnegie discovered that there were five emotions that drove engagement and 12 that provoked disengagement. According to the study, employees who felt at least one of these five emotions were 68% more likely to be engaged at work compared to those who felt none. Additional findings revealed negative emotions such as irritation, disinterest and discomfort contributed to employee disengagement and were contagious to the organization and its staff.

The study also revealed that “it is the immediate supervisor who is the chief emotional driver in the workplace; reactions to him or her explain 84% of how employees feel about their organization.” Managers who convey cheerful and encouraging sentiment create a stronger sense of belonging in the workplace, which encourages the five positive emotions that induce employee engagement.

Consider some additional ways managers can build positive sentiment with employees:

  • Show you are there: According to Gallup, employees are three times as likely to be engaged when their manager meets with them regularly. Get to know your staff and show that you are committed to helping them succeed in the workplace.
  • Be respectful with each other: Forbes reports that managers and employees can build trust in daily habits such as listening and caring, making eye contact, recognizing accomplishments and having transparency around failure.
  • Have self-awareness: With responsibility for bottom-line results, managers can sometimes overlook employee relationships and empowerment in pursuit of achieving corporate objectives, according to Harvard Business Review. Instead, show employees you have a tolerance for mistakes and treat errors as an opportunity for growth.

Awareness of the important role of a positive employee-manager relationship is a great start to improved engagement. By taking these steps to implement techniques and processes to create strong employee-manager partnerships, companies can harness a key driver of engagement.

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