Ethical leadership in the workplace can create a positive work environment

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Researchers suggest that empowerment is key

Though the workplace can become a very competitive environment, a recent study conducted by researchers from San Diego State University found that managers can create a more positive, uplifting atmosphere for their employees.

The researchers found that managers who focus on empowering their employees and promoting two-way communication can help employees feel less stressed and more productive.

“When family and life issues conflict with work situations, this can cause ‘hindrance stress’ which means job demands are viewed as obstacles to personal growth or goals,” said researcher Dr. Gabi Eissa. “Hindrance stress often depletes the employee’s ability to exercise self-control and they lash out with aggressive and undermining behavior toward their peers.”

Practicing ethical leadership

To see how outside stressors affected the workplace, the researchers had over 150 employees and co-workers complete a survey. While the researchers were interested in seeing how the employees balanced life stress and work stress, they also wanted the participants to rate their managers on their ethical leadership.

“We define ‘ethical leadership’ as supervisors who demonstrate appropriate work conduct through their personal actions and those who engage employees by discussing their work-related worries and emotions,” Dr. Eissa said. “Ethical leaders want to help employees respond positively to negative situations and they try to offer resources to help employees who may find themselves hitting a rough patch.”

The researchers found that when employees ranked their superiors high on ethical leadership, they were less likely to talk poorly of their co-workers or try to drag them down. Moreover, the survey revealed that hindrance stress was key in employees’ likelihood to lash out at their co-workers.

The researchers hope that these findings inspire people to adopt more ethical leadership practices in their workplaces to ensure that employees are performing at their best and feeling their best.

“Our conclusions may have implications for organizational policies, programs, and training initiatives that are aimed at reducing work-family conflict and hindrance stress,” Dr. Eissa said. “This, of course, leads to less social undermining and a more positive, productive workplace. Our findings may help organizations to understand the importance of having ethical leaders, but it takes commitment from their top leadership to make this a reality.”

Staying positive at work

Many recent studies have explored how consumers can be the most productive and least stressed at work. Researchers have found that when it comes to advice from co-workers, being asked is key.

Being open to criticism can also benefit employees who are working on creative projects. In this study, the researchers found that employees often get creatively blocked after receiving criticism for their bosses, but they can take criticism well from those not in a position of power.

“If you’re a supervisor, just be aware that your negative feedback can hurt your followers’ creativity,” said researcher Yeun Joon Kim. “Followers tend to receive negative feedback personally. Therefore, keep your feedback specific to tasks. Explain how the point you’re discussing relates to only their task behavior, not to aspects of the person.”

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