Workers have long held that managers are responsible for poor attitudes and productivity issues in the workplace. It is only during the past decade, however, that studies have provided the necessary evidence to prove workers right. A 2004 National Bureau of Economic Research report cites management behavior as a major determinant in the attitudes of employees. Subsequently, management behavior also affects productivity and many other aspects of work that were previously attributed to individual workers.
Even the simplest management behaviors such as saying “thank you” have the potential to impact productivity and, thus, the organization’s bottom line. Productivity is influenced by a variety of factors including employee engagement, job satisfaction and communication barriers. A 1999 study conducted at Ohio State University found “that the behavior of managers plays the biggest role in whether workers put more effort into their jobs.”
It is essential for managers to understand and take responsibility for their role in driving productivity in the workplace. Randy Hodson, professor of sociology at Ohio State University, says, “We talk a lot about what workers should do. We don’t talk a lot about what management should do.” It is the work of management to identify and overcome barriers to employee productivity rather than mandating that employees improve without providing the proper support to create an environment where employees can succeed.
Employee engagement has a major impact on productivity in the workplace and is largely influenced by management behaviors. A 2009 Watson Wyatt report found that “companies with highly engaged employees experienced 26 percent higher employee productivity, lower turnover risk, greater ability to attract top talent, and 13 percent higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years.”
To encourage management behaviors that will bring about optimum productivity levels, it is essential that management compensation not be tied to owner payoff. A 2009 article published in the "Journal of Accounting Research" cites a study by the article’s authors that found “reputation concerns lead to greater firm productivity and higher payoffs for all firm members, but only when manager pay is relatively insensitive to the owner's ex post allocation.” It is imperative that workers trust management to have their best interests in mind as well as the interests of company owners and investors. Managers must respect the rights of their workers and take steps to provide workers with a productive working environment if they are to expect their employees to be productive.