Opting Out: How to Increase Worker Satisfaction

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Many managers are clueless.  Some bosses think because employees have a job despite the  financial crisis, employees should be happy.  When the pressures of globalizations are upon American businesses, companies need workers to achieve high performance.

In my book, Breaking Organizational Ties: How to Have a More Fulfilled Life in Your Current Job, I researched and tracked the growing discontentment of some employees about their job situation. In fact, U.S. employee satisfaction is at a 20 year low.

Most employees do not trust their senior leadership to guide the  organization with their employees in mind.  Furthermore, cost cutting of  professional training and education and the lack of vertical advancement in organizations are creating a growing number of unhappy workers. Given these organizational constraints, employees seek to opt out by giving the organization the least amount of performance in order to keep their jobs.

Since the economic downturn, some employees are dissatisfied  with professional growth and career advancements in their jobs.  Gareth Jones and Jennifer George, authors of Contemporary Management, note that managers need to be mindful how they make decisions that affect employees.

Downsizing and outsourcing are a way of life for most organizations.  However, many times low morale in these organizations is  attributed to how employees are treated in this process.  Jones and George further suggest that managers should show compassion and empathy for layoff victims, by providing  employees with as much advance notice as possible about the layoff, and giving  clear information about severance benefits.

After the layoff, they can  also assist layoff victims in their job search efforts. These are a few of the ways in which managers can humanely manage a layoff. Richard Daft, author of Management, explains the importance of motivating employees:  “One secret for success in organizations is motivated and engaging employees. Most people begin a new job with energy and enthusiasm, but employees can lose their drive if managers fail their role as motivators.”

Therefore, managers need to inspire followers to minimize the number of individuals who ‘opt out’ in organizations.  Employees play a critical role in determining if they will ‘opt out.’ Marsha Sinetar, author of Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow, notes that the lingering consequences of employees who only work to obtain a paycheck: “Most of us think about our jobs or our careers as a means to fulfill responsibilities to families and creditors, to gain more material comforts, and to achieve status and recognition. But we pay a high price for this kind of thinking.”

Yet, if organizations are to be successful, they can’t afford their workers to be ‘opting out’ and providing less than superior performance against the backdrop of global forces. 

Discuss how managers can inspire employees toward greater job satisfaction.

© 2013 by Daryl D. Green

 

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18 thoughts on “Opting Out: How to Increase Worker Satisfaction

  1. I think that one big thing that managers can do to motivate their employees is to take pride in their position. This does not mean being boastful, but being able to convey to your employees that your job as well as theirs is one of importance. Also, it is important for managers to know their employees. Television shows like “Undercover Boss” prove the importance of this fact. When managers achieve these two things it creates a positive atmosphere. “Specifically, employees who are in an up, positive emotional state are likely to view challenges as opportunities” (Hiam, 2003). It is also important to reward employees. Of course they should be fairly compensated but the best places that I have worked have rewarded employees with such things as gift cards, catered lunches, vouchers that allow you to wear jeans to work. They were simple things but it created a positive culture and made employees want to be there. “Offering money and other concrete rewards will increase commitment to and reinforce the importance of the goal” (Jensen, McMullen, Stark, 2007). To me the best organizations utilize the most out of the minimum. Meaning, they ensure employee commitment by gratifying hard work.

    Hiam, A. (2003). Motivational Management : Inspiring Your People for Maximum Performance. AMACOM, American Management Association.
    Jensen, D., McMullen, T., & Stark, M. (2007). Manager’s Guide to Rewards : What You Need to Know to Get the Best For–and From–your Employees. American Management Association.

  2. Dr. Green,

    So how do you suggest we help employees “opt-in”? Could it be that employees “opt-out” or “check-out” because there is a realization that their values are not shared? I wonder if there is a difference between “opting-out” and “checking-out.” One seems to be a choice and another seems to be the result of something. Is “opting-out” the result of poor leadership or a choice an employee makes. Certainly the follower has to also be considered in this situation because our economy is not always going to be bullish and yet we always have people who “opt-out.” Should the leader always be at blame or is it possible that poor attitudes and poor values can also lead to “opting-out.” What are your thoughts on this?

    Overall values are a key component in the effectiveness of the leader follower relationship. “Research reveals that people who share core values….are more willing to make personal sacrifices, perform above normal expectations, and will not leave the organization for their own self-interests” (Malphurs, pg. 41). Values incongruency happens when these values are not shared and can lead to “chaos” or confusion, a disruption in “creative energy” and a loss of “constructive” progress (Malphurs, pg. 52). Leaders who understand the incongruency in core values can determine if there is an “organizational fit” for a potential follower before entering the organization. Leaders who do not understand the incongruency in core values make the mistake of misinterpreting the reasons for the failure of this relationship.

    It is the responsibility of all to determine if core values are shared but the primary responsibility of the leader “to see that it takes place” (Malphurs, pg. 56). The outcome of shared values is a reinforcement of commitment and trust within the leader follower relationship (Kouzes, pgs. 49-51). Successful leaders work at “building consensus on basic values” because this is what knits together the leader and follower relationship (Malphurs, pg. 17). Understanding what values need to be sown in order to reap the benefits of this relationship is key to its success. In “The Human Equation” Jeffrey Pfeffer states, “people, culture, capability — are important sources of competitive advantage. People are the strategy.” (Pfeffer, pg. 17)

    Is it feasible that the organization has lost it’s focus on its true value source: it’s people or is an economic downturn simply the revelation that people were never of value? Is it possible that in times of an economic downturn these issues are more evident and in times of plenty they are overlooked? Is it also feasible given this that these organizations are not investing into their people but rather trying to protect what they have? Either way the loss of focus on the true source of value eventually tickles down and demonstrates itself at all levels of the organization.

    Kouzes, James M. and Posner, Barry Z. (2003). The Leadership Challenge (3rd ed.). California: Jossey-Bass.

    Malphurs, Aubrey (2004). Values-Driven Leadership: Discovering and Developing Your Core Values for Ministry. (2nd ed). Michigan: BakerBooks.

    Pfeffer, Jeffrey (1998). The Human Equation. Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press

    • Dr. Pfohl,

      You always amaze me in asking probing questions: “So how do you suggest we help employees “opt-in”? Could it be that employees “opt-out” or “check-out” because there is a realization that their values are not shared?”

      As you know, the problems in organizational issues usually point to the lack of effectiveness leadership. To make more organizational functional optimally, all components must work together (aka strategy, structure, and culture). Many managers spend less time of developing their human capital….PEOPLE. This lack of concern by managers often create the mechanism of ‘opting-out’ or ‘checking-out.’

      It’s an issue that can be solved…if managers care!

      Professor D. Green

  3. How can managers inspire employees toward greater job satisfaction?

    Most employees look forward to going to work because they feel as sense of need and purpose. This is achieved when managers make an effort to fulfill the needs of their employees. Simple things like, giving a positive feedback on tasks completed, rewarding high productivity and daily motivation for work that was well done is what makes a huge difference in whether an employee feels satisfied on the job. White (2012) in her article cited a survey done by the American Psychological Association which found that one of the top reasons why employees were staying with their current employers was not because of the pay but as a result of the positive feeling they get from going to work “feeling like their jobs fit into the rest of their lives”. She goes on to state that offering more money might attract employees but getting them to stay requires the intangible rewards of a job well done. These are just a few suggestions as to how managers can inspire their employees toward greater job satisfaction.

    Reference
    White, M. (2012) Job satisfaction or long term stability? Turns out it’s hard to have both. TIME
    Retrieved from http://business.time.com/2012/12/14/job-satisfaction-or-long-term-job-stability-turns-out-its-hard-to-have-both/

  4. One thing that managers can do is to be happier in their own job. A new study by the UK’s Institute for Leadership and Management suggests that “positivity may be the key to unlocking superior performance” (Anderson, 2013). If you do not have a positive attitude about your job and the company, how can you expect to motivate others towards a positive attitude? According to the study a key best practice is to ensure regular communication- “teams whose managers provide frequent feedback, coaching, and access to development programs were happier and higher-performing, which in turn, improved manager performance and positivity” (Anderson, 2013). Since my immediate supervisor instituted a weekly meeting where we communicate informally over a game of bingo, I have seen this assertion to be true. Our team is happier, more productive, and more committed to her and the organization, in part because we know that she is happier, productive and committed to the organization.

    Anderson, M. (2013, January 17). Does being happy make you a better manager? [Web Log post] Retrieved from http://www.theglasshammer.com/news/2013/01/17/does-being-happy-make-you-a-better-manager/

    • Renee,

      Thanks for sharing your insight on how managers being happy in their own job.

      You Stated
      One thing that managers can do is to be happier in their own job.

      My response,
      I agree that employees that work for a manager who is happy cares about their job and their employee’s jobs create stronger job satisfaction. Spitzig (2013) states, in his article about the characteristic of long-term manager, “They have an inherent and ongoing desire to make people happy. They are enthusiastic and positive in their attitude and their management style and temperament fits the businesses where they work” (p. 3). Therefore, as you stated can see this to be true with your manager I too can see this as being true assertion in the sports industry. Players are willing to play harder for managers who they know who cares about them and makes playing for them enjoyable and as consequent they wins more games. In conclusion, a happy manager equals stronger employees’ satisfaction.

      References
      Spitzig, N. (2011). longevity and the general manager. Supervision, 72(7), 3-4.

  5. There are numerous ways managers can motivate and improve the job satisfaction of their employees. However, with a new generation of workers entering the workforce managers have to motivate their employees in a different way than they did the last generation of workers. For instance, in the past manager expected their employees to do their jobs correctly and the employees did not except any congratulations for doing their job correctly. Now managers have to understand their employees’ characteristic and what motivates them on an individual bases instead of a general work force. Musselwhite (2011) explain, “When managers take the time to create sense of trust among employees, they gain invaluable insight into what motivates each employee. What motivate on person may do nothing for another” (p. 48). As result once a manager understand what motivates his employees on individual level they can then start to create job satisfaction for their employees. In conclusion, with new generations entering the work force motivating and creating job satisfaction for their employees is becoming a priority for managers.
    Reference
    Musselwhite, C. (2011). CREATING A CULTURE OF MOTIVATION. T+D, 65(9), 46-49.

  6. Managers understand how employee satisfaction, motivation, and attitude are critical to achieving an organization’s goals. There are measures they can take to help improve employee satisfaction. Managers can inspire employees to identify their “passion” and provide projects in their area of passion or interest. Also, managers should clearly define the organization’s vision, mission and strategy, as well as the goals and objectives of each employee so they understand their role in the organization’s success. Leaders should empower employees to succeed by delegating meaningful and challenging tasks to them. Most of the time, people want to succeed; they derive satisfaction from continuing to learn and grow so it is important to provide opportunities for them.

    Managers should work with employees to create their own personal development plan, while coaching and mentoring them to increase their level of skills and sense of accomplishment. As part of the process, a manager should monitor the progress of all employees toward the accomplishment of their goals and objectives. Managers should reinforce positive behavior with rewards, including recognition among employees’ peers (Quast, L., 2012, pp. 1-2).

    Reference:
    Quast, Lisa (2012). Five tips for motivating employees, Forbes Magazine. Retrieved on March 30, 2013 from http://www.forbes.com

  7. Managers understand how employee satisfaction, motivation, and attitude are critical to achieving an organization’s goals. There are measures they can take to help improve employee satisfaction. Managers can inspire employees to identify their “passion” and provide projects in their area of passion or interest. Also, managers should clearly define the organization’s vision, mission and strategy, as well as the goals and objectives of each employee so they understand their role in the organization’s success. Leaders should empower employees to succeed by delegating meaningful and challenging tasks to them. Most of the time, people want to succeed; they derive satisfaction from continuing to learn and grow so it is important to provide opportunities for them.

    Managers should work with employees to create their own personal development plan, while coaching and mentoring them to increase their level of skills and sense of accomplishment. As part of the process, a manager should monitor the progress of all employees toward the accomplishment of their goals and objectives. Managers should reinforce positive behavior with rewards, including recognition among employees’ peers (Quast, L., 2012, pp. 1-2).

    Reference:
    Quast, Lisa (2012). 5 tips for motivating employees, Forbes Magazine. Retrieved on March 30, 2013 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2012/01/10/5-tips-for-motivating-employees

  8. Managers of most companies today have a vast amount of resources available to them to aid in employee job satisfaction. However, I feel the trend of job satisfaction continues to decline due to management neglect and ignorance. Many managers succumb to their own success and forget the stress and workload that subordinates experience on a daily basis. The current period of economic uncertainty and budget cuts have played a significant role in the recent increase of job dissatisfaction. With budgets running thin, many companies have turned to non-monetary benefits to increase job satisfaction such as flexible work schedules. “Employers that implement non-monetary initiatives to increase employee satisfaction definitely reap the benefits of lower employee turnover rates and greater organizational commitment” (Plowman, 2010). We as employees all understand the tough economic times, but managers must be creative in finding workplace motivators and recognize the importance of increasing employee job satisfaction. Money is not the only motivator!

    Plowman, N (2010, June 9). Ways to Increase Employee Satisfaction. Retrieved from http://www.brighthub.com/office/entrepreneurs/articles/55780.aspx

    • Rhyne, I agree with your point of money not being the only motivator for employees. This is certainly a point of emphasis for companies now as they attempt to find ways to save on labor costs while keeping their employees engaged and effective. The concept of non-monetary motivation and engagement is explored further by motivation and training experts Fiona Dent and Viki Holton. They state that motivation starts with having formal policies and procedures in place to allow for things like performance reviews, sharing success stories, and conducting surveys to assess employee engagement levels. This is only the first of several steps Dent and Holton lay out, but even this is often not done. Top-level management must understand the need for such policies so their efforts to improve employee satisfaction have a strong foundation.

      Dent, F., & Holton, V. (2009). Employee engagement and motivation. Training Journal, 37-40.

  9. Employee morale is the degree to which an employee feels good about their job and company. Manufacturing companies have found that to achieve better lean processes employee morale needs to be positive. “Machines are clean, procedures are posted, yet so many employees are disengaged from their work and are not motivated to do more for themselves or their companies” (Bodek, 2013, p.1). To encourage workers management should help them make their own goal and become more self-reliant. This will produce more involved motivated and engaged employees thus increasing their work quality.
    BODEK, N. (2013). Humanity and Harada. Industrial Engineer: IE, 45(2), 46-50.

  10. When employees “opt out”, it is harmful to both the employee and the organization as a whole. The employee is not fulfilled in their work and the organization is not maximizing the skills and abilities of that individual. One major trait that is hurt by unmotivated workers is their desire and ability to be creative. Creativity is a key resource for companies, particularly in a competitive environment. Professors Xiaomeng Zhang and Kathryn Bartol address this by analyzing how psychological empowerment can affect employee engagement and ultimately, their creativity (Zhang, 2010). They argue that workers will respond to a call for creativity when they are able to work in an environment that allows their ideas to come to life. Being empowered is the most important step toward promoting creativity in an individual, and ultimately an organization.

    ZHANG, X., & BARTOL, K. M. (2010). LINKING EMPOWERING LEADERSHIP AND EMPLOYEE CREATIVITY: THE INFLUENCE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL EMPOWERMENT, INTRINSIC MOTIVATION, AND CREATIVE PROCESS ENGAGEMENT. Academy Of Management Journal, 53(1), 107-128. doi:10.5465/AMJ.2010.48037118

  11. There has been a lot of research done on motivation by many scholars, but the behavior of groups of people to try to find out why it is that every employee of a company does not perform at their best has been comparatively unresearched. Many things can be said to answer this question; the reality is that every employee has different ways to become motivated. Employers need to get to know their employees very well and use different tactics to motivate each of them based on their personal wants and needs. Everyone learns at their own pace, some visually and some learn hands-on, thus an employer must learn how to motivate individuals in their organization in order for them to be productive.
    Motivation and Productivity in the Workplace by Carla Valencia

  12. Job satisfaction can be viewed in three ways, satisfaction can be driven by compensation for work, passion for your work and the feeling you get out of doing it, and opportunities to advance. These all create job satisfaction from time to time but to produce job satisfaction from day to day work is a little more difficult. Rachael Thompson, the VP of “mind tools” gives some great building tools for job satisfaction.
    -Challenge.
    -Variety.
    -Positive attitude.
    -Knowing your options.
    -Balanced lifestyle.
    -A sense of purpose.
    The most important tool in my opinion was maintaining “a sense of purpose.” For some people they may find their purpose is providing for their family but for some they need to dig a little deeper to find the purpose in their jobs. If you can find a purpose you serve other than just making a company money, like really helping people with your work, that can become motivation for job satisfaction.

    Thompson, R. (2011, July 05). Getting the most from your job. Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_94.htm

  13. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to stop workers from becoming dissatisfied with their jobs and work environment. Becoming burnt out at work is a response attributed to many stress factors.. Some of these may include shrinking budgets, personnel shortages, etc. According to an article by Marie L. Griffin in 2010, depersonalization, feeling of lack of accomplishment, and emotional exhaustion are all associated with opting-out. These are things that we must stop. In some cases employers make the work place more exciting or offer ways for employees to have a break from work. Often large companies have gyms or work out facilities for exercise. Exercise and activity are widely known as a reliever of stress. Other examples include playing games at work or forming sports teams to create camaraderie among employees. These are just a few of the ways to help create a stimulating work environment in which employees will thrive and be satisfied with their work.
    Griffin, Marie L. Job Involvement, Job Stress, Job Satisfaction, and Organizational Commitment and the Burnout of Correctional Staff. Criminal Justice and Behavior. 2010

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