Want to increase staff loyalty? You'll need to be seen as important to them

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Want to increase staff loyalty? You'll need to be seen as important to them

Offering praise and having a good working relationship isn’t always enough to engender loyalty from staff—employees also need to feel that the relationship with their boss is important, according to new research.

The study is the first of its kind to examine both the quality of exchanges between a leader and follower and the value of those exchanges in the eyes of the follower.

It had previously been assumed that a high-quality relationship alone would automatically lead to feelings of loyalty towards managers, but this latest research shows that it also depends on whether the employee views the relationship as important in the first place.

What the researchers say: “Our findings have real implications for the workplace because it shows that the perceived importance of a manager is also really important in building loyalty,” said the lead author. “While it’s worthwhile investing in employees who see the relationship as important, employers would also do well to look for ways to motivate those staff who don’t.”

“We also found that a quality relationship with a boss caused greater feelings of psychological empowerment and this effect was felt more strongly when the relationship was viewed as important by the employee,” said the researchers. For instance, if a member of staff receives recognition and praise from a leader, it has more impact on the way they view their own competencies the more importance they place on that relationship.

“Employees with a strong sense of empowerment are also likely to take an active attitude towards their work and perform ‘above and beyond’ what is expected.”

So, what? This study reinforces one of the prime teachings of ours: that what really motivates people is a sense that doing something—working harder, trying something new, taking on new responsibilities—will strengthen the relationship with someone that they see as an important part of their support network.

We are, primarily, relationship-forming animals. Supportive relationships are key to our feeling of safety so we will do what it takes to maintain and strengthen those relationships. So if an employee sees his supervisor or manager as potentially an important part of their support network then they will do what it takes to please them.

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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