30/09/2015 - 05:57

Happy managers, happy workplace?

30/09/2015 - 05:57


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Researchers at Curtin University are exploring how the happiness of managers affects organisational performance.

TOGETHER: The role of managers, often regarded as the meat in the sandwich, needs to be better understood. Photo: iStockphoto

The veritable explosion of interest into the impact of happiness on employee performance, under the guise of the so-called ‘happy-productive worker’ thesis, has always intrigued organisational researchers and practitioners.

Despite contrasting evidence, there remains overarching support that happy workers can, and will, perform better than their miserable counterparts.

There are still some limitations on our understanding within this domain, as most investigations have focused on happiness levels of ‘shop floor’ employees or ‘top floor’ executives.

None explore the experience of managers, often considered the veritable ‘meat in the sandwich’ due to downward pressures from executives and upward pressure from employees.

This needs to be better understood as our workplace dynamics become increasingly more complex and demanding in response to both global pressures and uncertain business environments.

What we do know is that competitive forces will continue to drive constant change in the business environment and this will result in the ‘intensification’ of work practices.

Typically, the shift from ‘lean’ to ‘mean’, deemed requisite to maintain a competitive edge, is affecting all employees, including those managers responsible for overseeing change.

Managers’ chances of surviving and thriving in this environment are thought to be increased by maintaining a buoyant positive state.

Any decline in managers’ performance will inevitably reverberate through the organisation; so their performance is vital to organisational success.

Curtin University researchers are exploring the ‘happy-productive worker’ theme to determine how managerial happiness potentially impacts on organisational performance.

On the surface it does seem logical to assume that happy managers will perform better.

Not so, according to Curtin Graduate School’s chief researcher on the project,associate professor Peter Hosie, who said “most literature suggests there is a relationship between managers’ happiness and managers’ performance but the evidence also indicates this link may be morphing”.

A move to harness the positive power of emotions of managers is emerging but this needs to be better understood.

Managers are in a unique position to transmit both positive and negative feelings to those they supervise.

Not only is this crucial to ensuring individual success, it is even more crucial when managing teams. Even small shifts of positive energy can have substantial improvements in individual, team and organisational productivity.

Findings from the Curtin study have considerable potential to help enhance managerial performance in organisations, particularly those having recently experienced rapid economic growth and the  transformation taking place.

These important aspects of human behaviour will inform the broader debate on what determines managers’ job performance and capabilities to create a unique competitive advantage.

This study is the first of its kind designed to examine the link between Australian managerial happiness, important role-related aspects and their performance over an extended period of time.

More specifically, the link between managers’ job-related psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction, to ascertain the pressures evident from conflict, ambiguity, and overload on their performance, needs testing.

Results from the investigation may help decision maker’s to deal more effectively with the many and varied pressures facing managers in contemporary organisations.

If you are interested in speaking with Peter, or want to be involved in the study, please email Peter.Hosie@cbs.curtin.edu.au or phone (08) 9266 7714.

Assistance in promoting this study would be greatly appreciated. In return asummary of the project’s overall results across all industries surveyed will be made available to each participating organisation.

In addition, the results pertaining to your organisation will be available so you can contrast and benchmark this with industry in general.

The study is supported by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre.


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