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Employees who share similar motivations for achievement with their managers are much more likely to speak up and share their ideas, concerns or feedback, according to new research by the School.

Key findings

The researchers found that if an employee is well-aligned with their manager, they are more likely to feel a connection to the organisation and its identity. These findings come from research by the School’s Dr Janey Zheng, Professor of Leadership, alongside her colleagues, Michele Williams from the University of Iowa, and Christina Wang and Jian Liang, both from Tongji University.

The importance of goal alignment

The study examined how alignment on achievement goals and working standards between employees and their managers influenced the likelihood of employees speaking up with ideas, feedback or concerns.

The researchers conducted two separate studies involving over 800 employee-supervisor pairs in Chinese firms. Participants were asked about their personal goals in their role and how likely they were to voice their ideas, concerns and feedback to their supervisors. By matching employee’s answers with their leaders, the researchers identified that employees with similar goals and working standards to their supervisors were much more likely to speak up.

Implications for management practices

Interestingly, the motivation for achievement and to excel did not have to be high for workers to speak up. Employees would share their thoughts even if they did not want to be the best at work, if their supervisor was on the same page. However, if an employee had high motivation for achievement, and a leader did not – or vice versa – then employees were less likely to speak up.

“Employee’s feeling as though they have a voice is highly important to an organisation.”, says Dr Zheng. “Not only does it mean new perspectives, ideas and insight for the wider team, which can improve the organisation, but also employees who feel they can share feedback safely are more likely to be happy in their roles. Therefore, aligning the motivations of managers and workers should be a key goal for any organisation.”

Strategies for enhancing goal alignment

The researchers say that an employee can only be aligned to their manager’s goals if they are made aware of what these are of course, therefore organisations should look to pair supervisors with employee’s who share similar goals to ensure the whole team has a collective voice.

Another approach, the researchers say, could be ensuring that from the outset managers share their own vision with employee’s so they are on board. Whilst if this is not possible, organisations should look to host team-building programmes, motivational speakers, and other activities in an attempt to align the team’s goals.

Employee’s feeling as though they have a voice is highly important to top managers because it generates innovative solutions to complex issues and enhances organisational effectiveness. Therefore, organisations should stress the importance of managers aligning their goals, for the good of the wider organisation.

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