When it comes to work, are we better off being told what to do or figuring it out ourselves?
Instinctively, most of us would say the latter, and now research from Curtin University proves we’re right.
A study of workplace engagement shows top-down initiatives foisted on workers by their bosses – such as leadership training and formal feedback exercises – are less effective than simply letting them get on with it in their own way.
Lead author Dr Caroline Knight says it’s a well-known fact employees are more productive when they’re more engaged but organisations do not always know how to achieve this.
“We found that employees who were encouraged to proactively craft their own jobs, such as by taking on a challenging new work project, learning a new skill, or brainstorming with a colleague to problem solve, were more likely to stay engaged at work,” she says.
Strategies initiated by employees themselves, rather than senior management, were more likely to boost staff moral and therefore productivity than those imposed from above.
That’s not to say there aren’t things senior managers can do. Dr Knight’s team found health and stress management activities were also effective, together with measures to create a more positive work environment.
“In addition, work engagement research suggests that employers and managers who are able to provide social support, feedback, and development opportunities for their employees, and help them manage their workload, time pressure, and emotional demands, are more likely to see positive outcomes.”
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