Leadership & Employee Wellbeing: A Crucial Connection

Leadership and Employee Well-Being: A Crucial Connection

In the ever-evolving landscape of organizational dynamics, a profound shift is underway—one that places employee well-being at the forefront. As the adage goes, “A time is coming where leaders will be measured by the well-being of their subordinates.” This sentiment resonates deeply in today’s workplaces, where the health and happiness of employees are no longer mere afterthoughts but critical components of success.

 Understanding Employee Well-Being

Employee well-being encompasses more than physical health; it extends to the overall quality of an employee’s experience and functioning at work. Researchers have dissected this multi-dimensional construct, revealing key facets:

  1. Satisfaction: This dimension captures the experience of pleasure—the moments of joy and contentment that employees derive from their work. It includes cognitive and affective evaluations of work-life, such as job satisfaction.
  2. Engagement: Here, we delve into the subjective vitality—an aliveness and energy—that employees feel. Engagement with their tasks, purpose, and overall sense of fulfilment fall under this category.
  3. Physical dimensions: Beyond mental and emotional states, physical health plays a pivotal role. Factors like sleep quality, exercise, and nutrition impact an employee’s overall wellness.

What we are trying to avoid when it comes to employee well-being are negative dimensions: Job stress, burnout, and emotional strain. Acknowledging and actively addressing these negative aspects are crucial for creating any of the three dimensions mentioned above.

A Leaders Impact on Well-Being

The behaviour of leaders has shown to have an incredible impact on the various dimensions involved in employee wellbeing. Here are some examples for how leaders can impact employees’ well-being positively:

Different leadership behaviours leave distinct imprints on employee well-being. Consider the following:

  • Being transformational and charismatic: Leaders who inspire, motivate, and foster growth contribute positively to employee engagement. Their vision and passion resonate with team members.

How do you practically inspire your team? You coul, for example, create a yearly, quarterly or semi-yearly vision board with the team or region, identifying goals together and gaining inspiration from mutual dreams.

  • Being ethical and authentic: Trustworthy leaders who uphold ethical standards create a psychologically safe environment. This directly impacts job satisfaction.

What ways can this be done? Role-modelling integrity, ‘doing the right thing’, both internally and for clients; as well as being open and transparent about own shortcomings, rather than trying to look perfect.

  • Empowering others: Empowering leaders encourage autonomy and decision-making. Employees thrive when they feel trusted and empowered.

But how? Well, leaders can actively ask the perspectives of team members on client projects and try to incorporate their ideas; and actively listening to team members. Underlying this is hopefully a belief that every employee can contribute something valuable!

  • Serving others: Leaders who prioritize serving their teams build strong social support networks. This bolsters overall well-being.

By supporting employees in something they struggle with, even when the leader gives of their own time and has to reprioritise, is one way this can be achieved. It also means that they see themselves as a ‘support’ for their team, rather than the  ‘commander’.

With any change in behaviour, there will be a ripple effect: Leaders’ behaviour reverberates throughout the organization. When leaders prioritize well-being, it sets a precedent. Employees feel valued, supported, and motivated.

As leaders, we must recognize our pivotal role. Our decisions, communication, and empathy directly impact the well-being of those we lead. Let’s foster a workplace where well-being isn’t an afterthought but a priority and a shared commitment.

To go back to the profound shift mentioned above. Let’s bring our awareness to the era of “well-being-conscious leadership” which is upon us. Would it be ethical to measure our success not only by profits and productivity but by the thriving well-being of our teams—the heartbeat of our organizations?

I believe it would be. Individuals spend the majority of their day doing activities that are concerned with work (travel, actual work, building relationships) and that in turn makes up the climate of societies or even norms and cultures concerning behaviours.

Imagine that – organisational leaders influencing our society! Yes, that  is the kind of impact we have. Let’s make sure our people are well, so our society can be well.

Shamaine Silubane – Junior Consultant