JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater cursed out a passenger, grabbed two beers and exited through the plane's emergency exit earlier this week, and a new report in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests his attitude may be a sign of trouble for JetBlue and other large companies. It may also be a sign of trouble just for airlines, where flight attendants seem to think passengers exist to give them a reason to collect a paycheck. Or it may mean nothing.
Certainly people need to feel valued by their company but JetBlue did not devalue Slater, a passenger did - a passenger annoyed at being berated by someone slightly unhinged given his later conduct. But some studies have linked general attitudes towards work to mood outside of work and health outcomes such as coronary heart disease.
Perhaps JetBlue and other large companies need to think about what they do instead of what they say because psychologist James K. Harter of Gallup, Inc. and colleagues found that employee perceptions of work conditions may also have a big impact on the bottom line of organizations. In their study, the researchers examined data from more than 2,000 business units (e.g., retail stores, factories, sales offices) of ten companies. The data consisted of employee satisfaction surveys, employee retention rates, customer loyalty, and financial performance of the organizations. Analyses of the data were conducted to identify relationships between employee job satisfaction and outcome measures of the organizations.
The results indicated that employee work perceptions predict important organizational outcomes—if employees have positive perceptions of their jobs, their organizations benefit via higher employee retention, increased customer loyalty, and improved financial outcomes. Interestingly, the analysis suggests that employee perceptions affect outcomes more than outcomes affect employee perceptions of their jobs.
"One implication is that changes in management practices that improve employee perceptions of specific work situation variables will increase business-unit outcomes, including financial outcomes," the authors note. Additionally, Harter and colleagues offer that one way managers can help boost job satisfaction and help their organization may be to "clarify expectations for employees by helping employees see the ultimate outcomes the organization is working to achieve and how they play a role in achieving those outcomes."
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