Ana M. Barrio, Alumna, School of Human & Organizational Development (2013)
An increased interest in corporate social responsibility has raised questions about the impact organizations have on employee well-being. The study focused on generative employee well-being, a concept grounded in three areas of literature: a eudaimonic philosophical perspective that views well-being in terms of personal growth, Erikson’s (1959) psychosocial life-span development theory that associates growth with caring for others, and research that associates well-being and social-oriented goals. The purpose of the study was to increase understanding of what managers do to inspire, facilitate, or support employee caring activities, defined as actions taken within or outside the workplace to improve the lives of others.
The unique contextualized experiences and perspectives of 25 managers and non-managers were collected using a questionnaire, one-on-one interviews, and a group conference call. Given that employee growth is a central tenet of servant-leadership, the study was conducted in three organizations that practice a philosophy of servant-leadership.
The study identified interrelated manager behaviors that fell into four themes: Build Relationship, Cultivate, Provide Resources, and Follow Up. The study drew attention to the significance of building a manager/employee relationship as a foundation for the other behaviors whereby managers inspire and develop employees to engage in caring activities, provide tangible and intangible resources, and provide reinforcement. Behaviors that build a relationship enable managers to get to know the activities employees are engaged in, and open the door for managers to offer support and employees to seek support. The concept of a manager caring for an employee as a person permeated each theme.
The study findings were captured in a model of Inspiration and Support of Caring Activities which includes structural influences such as values, policies, and practices. The study findings suggested managers need to know themselves, their employees, and the organization to determine what behaviors best fit a particular employee, at a particular point in time, and in a particular context. Practical implications for managers, employees, and organizations were presented along with recommendations for future research.