Feelings of control boost employee satisfaction
Stress for Success
October 30, 2012
A new study by Harris Interactive for Everest College has identified American workers’ top job stressors:
1. Low pay (reported by11%), the second time this was rated as #1;
2. Annoying coworkers (10%);
3. Commuting (9%);
4. Unreasonable workload (9%);
5. Working in a job that’s not their chosen career (8%);
6. Work-life balance (5%);
7. Lack of opportunity for advancement (4%);
8. The boss (4%);
Not all was negative in this report:
• Last year 9% reported their biggest fear was being fired; this year only 4% did;
• 26% said nothing about work stressing them out at all, up from 21% last year;
There were gender, educational and regional differences:
• 14% of women reported low pay was their biggest stressor; 8% of men said the same;
• 11% of women were stressed because their job wasn’t their chosen career versus 5% of men;
• 14% of those with high school diplomas or less cited low pay as their first concern, followed by annoying coworkers;
• College graduates ranked unreasonable workload as their #1 (13%), followed by low pay (11%);
• Northeast workers reported workloads the most stressful;
• For Southern workers low pay was the #1 (14%);
• In the West, the top complaint was commuting (14%);
Perhaps not surprisingly, the highest concentration of employees who said nothing stressed them on the job (37%) were those making $100,000 or more!
During these economically tight times, employers could reduce employee stress while improving motivation and growth without spending a dime: give them more control.
In 1976 Richard Hackman and Greg Oldham reported that increased control enhanced motivation and growth for most positions. In 1979 Robert Karasek found that workers whose jobs were high in job demands but low in employee control over decisions reported significantly more exhaustion after work, trouble awakening in the morning, depression, nervousness, anxiety and insomnia than other workers. When workers facing high demands had more control, their stress decreased.
Updating these earlier findings is a 2002 survey of 604 employees by the Society for Human Resource Management and USA Today showing 94% of those polled consider autonomy and independence “very important” or “important” to job satisfaction.
Just one business example of putting this concept into practice comes from Ford Motor Company who in the early 1990s increased productivity, quality and job satisfaction by shifting its manufacturing operations at their Romeo, MI engine plant to a team-based approach giving employees far greater control over their work. Rather than being told what to do, employees talked directly to suppliers about parts, researched better ways to run equipment, and took independent action to eliminate product defects. This was so successful that Ford expanded it to virtually all employee targets allowing them to find ways to accomplish them.
What a bargain! Employers can improve job satisfaction without reducing actual workload or spending money.
So, how can you increase your employees’ work-related control? Ask them. I bet they have plenty of ideas.
Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S. is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.