The ROI of Supporting Your Supervisors

The #1 reason why employees leave organizations and the #1 reason they join unions is dissatisfaction with the immediate supervisor. Given the importance of the supervisor-employee relationship to the organization’s well-being, doesn’t it make sense to nurture your supervisors and support their success?

Research¹ shows that when supervisors perceive a high level of organizational support – i.e., they believe senior management values their contributions and cares about their well-being – they reciprocate by providing a high level of support to their employees. As a result, in addition to feeling more satisfied with their supervisors, employees are likely both to increase their support of supervisors’ goals and to improve their in-role and extra-role performance. For example, they are likely to meet or exceed job expectations, look for ways to improve work effectiveness, and help other employees in ways that go beyond their job requirements.

The concepts at work here are perceived organizational support (POS) and reciprocity. POS refers to individuals’ perceptions of the extent to which the organization (i.e., senior management) values their contributions and cares about their well-being. Employees who have a high level of POS tend to reciprocate by performing in ways that benefit the organization, such as internalizing the organization’s values and being more forgiving of negative actions or characteristics. By performing at higher levels and going above and beyond their job requirements, employees also are increasing organizational productivity, effectiveness, and profitability. This research demonstrates that supervisors’ POS has a direct impact on employees’ performance.

Here are seven things senior management can do to increase the positive outcomes that accrue when supervisors and employees experience high levels of organizational support:

  1. Demonstrate that they care about individuals’ well-being.
  2. Show that they consider individuals’ opinions.
  3. Acknowledge individuals who do a good job.
  4. Express pride in individuals’ work accomplishments.
  5. Demonstrate that they consider individuals’ goals and values.
  6. Provide help when individuals have problems.
  7. Show that they are willing to extend themselves to help employees be successful in performing their jobs.

Here are some tips for successful implementation of these suggestions: be sincere when giving praise and approval. Ensure the recognition is personal – i.e., something the individual values. Give without creating an expectation of receiving something in return.

The ROI for these simple actions is huge. How can you afford not to take them?

¹ Shanock, L.R. & Eisenberger, R. (2006). When supervisors feel supported: Relationships with subordinates, perceived supervisor support, perceived organizational support, and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(3), 689-695.

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. Pat can show you how to apply relevant research findings in practical ways to create immediate results in your organization. Contact us today to see how we can help you make a difference!


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