Cheerful office workers laugh share takeaway pizza together

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ORLANDO, Fla. — It might seem awkward or even inappropriate to give your boss some praise for their work, but a new study finds they need the encouragement just as much as anyone else. Researchers from the University of Central Florida say supervisors who feel appreciated have more energy and project more optimism. This isn’t just good for office morale, the study finds it’s also good for a company’s profits as well.

“Based on theory, we knew feeling appreciated by another person sends a strong signal that you are positively regarded, and feelings of positive regard evoke a sense of vigor—or high energy,” says Business Ethics Professor Maureen Ambrose in a university release.

“This is important because research indicates when people possess higher levels of resources, in this case, energy, they are better able to maintain a positive outlook and engage in positive behaviors at work. We know when supervisors have feelings of depletion — or low energy — negative things happen. For example, when bosses have low energy, they engage in more abusive supervision, creating worse workplaces for their employees.”

Happy boss, happy work life

Ambrose and UCF alum Sharon Sheridan, now a professor at Clemson University, examined how feelings of appreciation and emotional expressions in the workplace impact supervisors on a day-to-day basis. The researchers say most studies focus on how management negatively affects their employees.

“Our study also found that feeling appreciated by employees was positively related, via energy, to supervisors’ psychological well-being. Psychological well-being can buffer individuals from the negative effects of job stress,” Ambrose explains.

The study finds reducing job stress on workers can have a tremendous impact on a company’s bottom line. According to the American Institute of Stress, job stress can cost U.S. businesses over $300 billion each year when you add up sick days, employee turnover, poor productivity, and insurance costs.

Researchers asked a group of supervisors to fill out a survey twice a day for 10 straight workdays. Each manager recorded how appreciated they felt by their employees and how energetic they felt personally and professionally.

“On days supervisors felt more appreciated, they had more energy, and this translated into higher levels of optimism, life satisfaction, job satisfaction and helping,” says Sheridan, an assistant professor of leadership at Clemson. “This was interesting because our field hasn’t connected feeling appreciated to higher energy, and we typically look at how supervisors can boost the resources of subordinates—not the other way around.”

Overcoming self-esteem issues

Just because someone is in charge doesn’t mean they’re the most confident person in the world. The study reveals that external validation from employees can be especially impactful for managers who lack a strong sense of self-esteem.

Ambrose and Sheridan say they hope their findings spark a deeper look into the role of appreciation in the workplace.

“Anyone who has managed people knows how influential the relationships with subordinates can be,” Ambrose concludes. “Taking this upwards perspective may help us better understand supervisors’ lived experiences at work and why they do the things they do.”

The study appears in the Journal of Management.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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