How Leadership and Culture Make or Break Worker Satisfaction

December 13, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things. ~ Peter Drucker.

Thank God it’s Friday. You may hear this refrain once a week. It’s usually a sign of a workplace that restricts creativity and autonomy. It’s usually a sign of a workplace that’s over managed and under led.

But what if things were different?

What if we could create a working environment in which people like working and in which people work well, a working environment which helps to enrich the life of those who work? What if we could satisfy the requirements of those who work and of those who employ as well as the requirements of the community as a whole?

Wouldn’t we all be happier?

The world of work suffers the same maladies regardless of geography, industry, or company size. I suspect therefore, and research supports this notion, that ‘satisfaction at work’ is a complicated subject because it deals with people and with relationships. The one thing people have in common is that they are all different. The container that holds that difference in the workplace is leadership and culture.

The Role of Leadership

Numerous studies have found that feelings of self-improvement, achievement, and the desire for the acceptance of greater responsibility and the pursuit of meaning are more important than money or rank for worker satisfaction. These factors provide greater rewards and incentives and therefore increase productivity. Therefore, what individuals want from their leaders is to be given challenging meaningful work and the trust and sense of empowerment to do that work and to progress along a path of learning and development. When this happens, worker satisfaction increases. If you’ve worked with good leaders and with great leaders, you’ve noticed a difference – an array of skills that sets them apart and is based on their people management skills. What you’ve noticed but may not have been able to label, is their emotional intelligence skills.

The Role of Culture

People are aware of their own position in the hierarchy, of the pecking order and of their place in it. Their commitment to their work depends on the style of leadership and on the extent to which the leadership takes responsibility for establishing a positive culture. What leaders often forget is that they are in fact in a reciprocal relationship with their workers. That relationship is both personal and structural. The commitment to the objectives of the company, for example, comes from the extent to which the company serves its employees – from the extent to which it helps them to achieve their needs and wants. What is good for the employees is good for the company. What benefits the people, also benefits the leadership. It is in the interest of leadership therefore, to establish a culture of respect, autonomy, and fairness. It is in the mutual interest of leaders and workers to encourage trustful co-operation, skilled communication, and positive culture.

 A final Word…

The current zeitgeist is obsessed with entrepreneurship. Our culture has always had a fetish for independence – being your own boss is the apex of ‘perceived’ satisfaction at work.

We want to be masters of our own destiny through self- employment. That’s a worthy pursuit. But independence for some may mean self-employment with guaranteed independence but for others it may mean the right to work (employment) and pay. Not all people can be or should be entrepreneurs.

Instead, I would argue that our collective attention as a society should be directed to creating satisfying work and satisfying workplaces. In this endeavor, we are not just concerned with our own satisfaction but with the satisfaction of the community as a whole.

What is characteristic of a community is that it consists of all the people together co-operating with each other for the common good and their joint struggle. Their glue is leadership and culture as driven by their shared values and by the co-creation of shared meaning.  If we were to take this approach, we might start to say ‘Thank God it’s Monday.’

Good luck.

My Simple Call to Action…

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Best,

Saeed

©2017— All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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