Recognize This! – “Control” over your work reduces stress.

Towers Watson’s latest Global Workforce Study expanded on the firm’s traditional employee engagement research, adding “enablement” and “energy” as two additional factors critical to sustaining engagement over time. And this is important as sustained engagement returns operating margins three times higher than in disengaged organisations (which is also nearly two times higher than merely engaged organisations).

Enablement as a key to sustained engagement largely hinges on employees having the tools they need to do their jobs. At the middle management level, I would argue one of those necessary “tools” is the ability to act on decisions. In other words, middle managers need control over their own decisions, divisions and departments.

Recent research reported on National Public Radio in the US supports this:

“It may indeed be lonely at the top, but apparently it’s not as stressful as you might expect. New research finds that people in leadership positions show lower levels of stress and anxiety than workers further down the chain…

“Our data indicate that it’s not so much what you’re doing as your perceptions of what you’re doing. Many middle level managers can make decisions, but they don’t have the control to implement them or, you know, to carry them out. So there right now in a lot of organisations are golf outings and stress-reducing activities for the top leaders. But this data suggests they’re actually already doing pretty well, and it’s more the middle managers who could benefit from having more of a sense of control.”

Note that the research does not show middle managers need outings and activities to reduce their stress. They need control over their work and their teams.

Though the research does not report on this effect among employees who do not manage others, I would expect the results would be the same. Employees who feel they have control over their work (meaning they do not feel micro-managed but rather empowered to get the work done) are more enabled and therefore more sustainably engaged over time.

How well does your organisation give direct control managers who, in turn, empower their employees? Do you consider this to be a key component of enablement  and engagement?