Management research challenges link between worker happiness and productivity
Managers encouraging employees to be more proactive and flexible do make gains in performance and productivity. But this is at the expense of employee job satisfaction, according to the latest research led by the University of Leicester.
Researchers led by Professor Stephen Wood, from the University of Leicester School of Management, set out to test a widely held assumption - that direct employee involvement methods can lead to high levels of worker job satisfaction, which in turn lead to a better performing organisation. Armed with data from the UK's Workplace Employment Relations Survey 2004, the researchers used statistical methods to look at the effects of two distinct management models: enriched job design and high involvement management (HIM).
Analysing the data from 14,127 employees and 1,177 workplaces, the researchers found a direct relationship between HIM and job satisfaction and anxiety – but surprisingly, it was a negative. HIM may be a source of dissatisfaction with the job and of anxiety. In fact, the negative effect of HIM on job satisfaction depresses its overall positive effects on organisational performance.
The enriched job design approach to management also had a positive relationship with labour productivity, financial performance and quality but this was positively related to job satisfaction, though not workplace anxiety. Moreover, the job satisfaction explains how the enriched job design affects performance.
In enriched job design, individuals have greater responsibility and autonomy, possibly offering more choices and pleasurable experiences that contrast with feelings evoked by a pressured environment.