Why Shared Identity Equates to a Happy Workforce

We are, or have been depending on which news source you read, in the biggest recession in a generation, so the workplace has been a pretty stressful time over the last few years. Employees have suffered through cuts in pay, training opportunities, work hours, and of course redundancy itself. It’s been nothing if not stressful for many of us.

I wrote recently about a study from Monash University researchers which suggested that a key buffer against these stresses is the social network of colleagues we build up at work. It found that the better developed our social network, the more able we were to survive the challenges our work throws at us. It all makes a lot of sense.  After all, our colleagues are undoubtedly important to our emotional wellbeing.

If you’re not convinced, then the following study from researchers at the University of Queensland may help to convince you. It looked at the value for employees of feeling part of a strong and distinct group whilst at work and found that when leaders can create such a culture and identity within the workplace, it has a big impact upon the health and wellbeing of employees.

We all just want to belong

"Leaders who create a strong sense of ’us’ and a sense of belonging within their teams help staff to feel more positive about their work," the researchers declare.

What’s more, the researchers suggest this reflects itself quite clearly in the employee engagement levels of staff, which as we all know, is a major concern for all kinds of organisations.

"This feeling translates to increased levels of engagement.  Feeling part of a group affects an employee’s sense of self-worth and increases their sense of achievement.  Our results show that mental health and performance are mutually dependent and can be improved through effective leadership," the researchers say.

Taking collective responsibility for wellbeing

The researchers suggest that a big part of the problem is that employee wellbeing is often not seen as the problem of the employer, it’s more something that employees should handle on their own.  So, for instance, the employer might provide a gym, but the onus is very much on each employee to make use of that offer.

They go on to suggest that this is a bit of a cop out, and that leaders need to take a much firmer hold on the wellbeing of employees, as it plays such a crucial role in other aspects of workplace life.  A big part of this is in creating a sense of shared identity amongst employees.

"Leaders can improve performance by helping their staff to identify with the group, its purpose and achievements.  This creates a win-win outcome for the organisation and the employee," the researchers suggest.

The findings emerged after several hundred employees were asked about the performance of their leader, and also on their general health and wellbeing.  The results suggest a clear correlation between the feelings of achievement felt by each employee and the sense of shared identity they felt with colleagues.

The researchers managed to replicate the findings in a longitudinal study that also highlighted the crucial role leaders play in creating such a shared identity.

Do you feel this kind of shared culture in your own workplace?  Do your bosses do enough to try and cultivate such a culture? Your thoughts and comments below please...


Image: iStock

Leaders enhance group members' work engagement and reduce their burnout by crafting social identity