Employee Well-Being
In addition to job satisfaction, researchers are also interested in other indicators of employee well-being. Some studies examine outcomes such as emotional exhaustion, psychosomatic health complaints, and physical health symptoms.42 Recent research has shown that leaders not doing their job (i.e., passive leadership) undermines employee well-being because having a weak leader increases role stress and depletes employees’ psychological resources for coping with the stress.43 Another study found that being asked to do an illegitimate task predicted lower employee well-being (lower self-esteem and job satisfaction with increased anger and depression). An illegitimate task is one that is outside of the boundaries of a person’s job: “For example, an administrative assistant asked to care for an executive’s child, while the executive attends a meeting may be feeling ‘this is not my job!’”44 The recommendations from these two studies for leaders seem clear: Being passive will affect your followers’ well-being negatively, but so will assigning tasks that are inappropriate. Well-being has emerged as an important outcome variable in OB, and recent research has extended this to the concept of thriving.

Thriving is defined as “the psychological state in which individuals experience both a sense of vitality and learning.”45 Vitality reflects a feeling of being alive. Learning is the person’s belief that they are growing and improving. Thriving reduces job burnout and reports of health problems (and fewer visits to the doctor). Leaders play an important role by inspiring their followers, which helps them to thrive and reduces burnout.46 Thriving also predicts job performance above other attitude measures (job satisfaction and organizational commitment).47 Organizations can promote thriving in their employees by allowing them to make their own decisions regarding their work, providing information about the organization’s mission, reducing rude behavior, providing feedback, and fostering a climate that supports diversity.48 Thriving is related to psychological safety in which employees feel that they can offer innovative ideas without being criticized.49,50 Thus, by increasing the opportunities for employees to thrive, leaders can tap into the potential of employees and unleash their creativity. This is particularly the case when employees trust the organization and feel connected to others in their work environment through strong relationships.51

Research on thriving is a relatively new area of OB. However, a review of 73 independent samples (21,739 employees) concluded that thriving is an important component of employee well-being at work.52 Results showed that thriving at work is associated with employee engagement. Thriving is also related to supportive relationships with coworkers and supervisors. The review supports the findings that thriving reduces feelings of stress and burnout and is related to organizational commitment. The review supported the relationship between thriving and job performance as well.

Classic views on motivation describe both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation as being equally important. Extrinsic motivation is based on the rewards from the organization’s compensation system such as pay and bonuses. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is related to the value of the work itself.53 As with attitudes, motivation has been studied as an outcome variable but also as an independent variable that predicts productivity. Prosocial motivation assesses the degree to which employees behave in a way that benefits society54—in other words, how much employees are motivated to behave in ways that help other people. For example, an employee may have prosocial motivation to coach a newly hired coworker who is floundering during the first few weeks on the job. The effects of prosocial motivation are strong, and employees are proactive at work even when their supervisors discourage prosocial behaviors.55 Thus, the motivation to help others may result in employees going against the negative behavior of their managers. These findings have implications for understanding how best to motivate employees. You will learn more about motivation and rewards in Chapters 8 and 9.

Employee Withdrawal
As noted earlier, an employee quitting the organization is costly in terms of the money and time spent to recruit, hire, and train replacements. There is much research in OB on the reasons why employees think about quitting (turnover intentions) and actual turnover.56 The availability of outside employment opportunities is a factor, but thoughts of quitting may be related to other outcomes such as lower job satisfaction and engagement. Moreover, if the economy improves and the job market improves with it, workers may eventually leave for other opportunities. Another costly form of employee withdrawal is absenteeism, since workers may not come to work when they are dissatisfied and there are few alternative jobs available.

Critical Thinking Questions: Is employee productivity the most important outcome variable? If not, what outcome(s) do you think is (are) more important?

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