I’m going to confess: I wasn’t sure to write about this study. In fact, a browser tab with the British Psychological Society Research Digest’s write-up of the results has been open on my desktop for more than a week, as the part of my brain that labeled it too obvious argued with the part that insisted plenty of leaders still need to be reminded of its main takeaway.
The pessimistic half won out, so here goes: A new study of more than 1,000 young Americans by a team of researchers out of Kansas State University recently published in the International Journal of Business Communication revealed that when bosses are respectful to their employees, those employees like their jobs more and are more resilient.
Here’s the money sentence summing up the findings from BPS: Participants “who felt they were respected and valued both by colleagues and by bosses were more likely to experience occupational resilience–that is, they were more able to deal with the challenges of the workplace. In turn, greater occupational resilience led these people to say they were more likely to want to stay employed at their company, and more willing to engage with their roles.”
A “no duh” finding that, sadly, bears repeating
Your first response to this might be whatever is the opposite of slack-jawed surprise. Having a boss and co-workers who speak to you respectfully and appreciate your contribution makes you happier at work and likely to try harder at your job? No duh. You don’t need a PhD in psychology to suspect that might be correct.
Then again, how did your life reveal this truth long before this study came along? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it was probably because you experienced a manager that didn’t speak to you respectfully or appreciate your contributions. At that point you, no doubt, discovered your willingness and capacity to deal with the challenges of your job decreased dramatically.
Both the fact that this happened to me (and most likely to you, too) suggests something beyond the fact that researchers sometimes spend time studying stuff that seems obvious. It also shows that, despite the fact this should be a no-brainer, lots of leaders have clearly not gotten the message. A belief that snapping at and pressuring young employees is either an acceptable way of unloading your own stress, or somehow brings out their best, persists in too many workplaces.
So here’s a handy reminder from science. None of those things are true. Putting up with gruffness from bosses isn’t young employees “paying their dues” professionally. It’s bosses undermining their teams’ ability to perform at their best. And happily the reverse is also true. Something as simple as saying “please,” “thank you,” or “nice job” can make employees markedly more resilient and engaged.
Remember that the next time you’re feeling inclined to take your stresses out on your junior employees.