Oct. 17, 2023
Contact: Pate McCuien, 573-882-4870, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers across the globe are reporting higher levels of negative feelings, including stress and worry. Half the American workforce is reportedly not engaged at work. As a result, employers are looking for ways to reverse the trend and foster a more respectful and inclusive workplace.
A new study led by researchers from the Novak Leadership Institute at the University of Missouri found that leadership communication helps to establish a workplace culture that values respect and recognition and delivers positive employee outcomes such as increased engagement and well-being. The study underscores the influence leaders have on shaping the culture of the workplace and the importance of how they communicate with employees and recognize their individual achievements.
“Leader communication drives respectful culture and behavior that translates into positive employee outcomes,” said Justin F. Willett, program director at the Novak Leadership Institute and lead author of the study. “Leaders need to help employees feel respected as part of the team and recognized for their unique strengths and accomplishments.”
The research team — which included experts from the Novak Leadership Institute, the MU Department of Communication, Kansas State University, and University of Central Missouri — surveyed 1,512 full-time working adults, split almost evenly between men and women. Participants were asked to assess the communication of their supervisor as well as levels of respect in the workplace and individual recognition. Positive leader communication was associated with increased perceptions of a respectful workplace culture and of individual recognition for achievements.
The research team found that recognition for individuals was not only associated with better employee outcomes such as job engagement, well-being, and resilience, but it also helped to foster a culture in which employees were more inclined to respect each other’s contributions. That is, receiving individual praise for specific achievements not only fulfills an employee’s need for status but also helps increase that person’s sense of belonging, thus increasing their respect for others in the workplace. These discoveries support the conclusions of an earlier study by the research team that found young workers ages 21-34 place more value on having respectful communication in the workplace than trendy work perks.
“Our research demonstrates that leader communication is a powerful tool, but it’s not enough,” Willett said. “The primary role of leader communication is to establish a respectful culture and facilitate recognition of individual employees for their unique strengths and accomplishments. It’s respect that is directly responsible for the positive employee outcomes that contribute to organizational success.”
The research team’s next study explores the effects of leader communication on engagement and well-being of employees who have flexible work arrangements, such as working from home or hybrid home-office arrangements.
The current study, “The Role of Leader Communication in Fostering Respectful Workplace Culture and Increasing Employee Engagement and Well-being,” was published in the International Journal of Business Communication. Co-authors are Danielle LaGree, an assistant professor of strategic communication at Kansas State University who earned her doctorate at the Missouri School of Journalism; J. Brian Houston, professor in the MU Department of Communication and chair and professor of the Public Health Department in the College of Health Sciences; Haejung Shin, an assistant professor of strategic communication at University of Central Missouri who earned her doctorate at the MU Department of Communication; and Margaret Duffy, professor of strategic communication at the Missouri School of Journalism and executive director of the Novak leadership Institute.
The Novak Leadership Institute was established in 2017 with an endowment of $21.6 million from MU alumnus David Novak and family. A strategic communication graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, Novak is the retired CEO of Yum! Brands, the world’s largest restaurant brand (Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC).