Most of us know what it’s like to not feel involved in, or have any influence in a conversation or decisions. This is a common experience many of us likely had as children. Our parents made decisions on our behalf – and we were told what to do, without being asked for our input or having any ability to influence the decision. When we are put in this position as adults, we are left feeling powerless. When these types of situations occur in the workplace, we’re less likely to be motivated or feel enthusiastic about our jobs.
Involvement and influence is present in a work environment where workers are included in discussions about how their work is done, and how important decisions are made. Opportunities for involvement can relate to a worker’s specific job, the activities of a team or department, or issues involving the organization as a whole.
Why is Involvement & Influence Important?
When workers feel they have meaningful input into their work, they’re more likely to be engaged, to have higher morale, and to take pride in their organization. This, in turn, increases their willingness to make an extra effort when required. Job involvement is, thus, associated with increased psychological well-being, enhanced innovation, and organizational commitment.
What happens when employees lack involvement or influence?
If employees don’t believe they have a voice in the organization, they’re likely to feel a sense of indifference or helplessness. Job alienation, or non-involvement, is associated with cynicism and distress, greater turnover, and burnout.
An organization with good involvement and influence would be able to state that:
- workers are able to talk to their immediate supervisors about how their work is done;
- Team members have some control over how they organize their work;
- Individual’s opinions and suggestions are considered with respect to work;
- workers are informed of important changes that can impact how their work is done; and,
- the organization encourages input from all workers on important decisions related to their work.
How to improve involvement and influence factors in the workplace
In many cases, if an individual is feeling they’re not involved and don’t have influence in the workplace, there is an issue with leadership communication. A worker may not feel as though they can communicate their needs, concerns or opinions with their supervisor. Or the supervisor is not communicating about work needs effectively to them.
There are a number of things a workplace can do to ensure there is alignment in what is required of a worker, such as:
- maintain current and accurate written job descriptions that specify roles and responsibilities;
- create employment agreements and contracts that explicitly value input into how work is conducted; and
- ensure all staff have an identified contact person (e.g., supervisor, office manager, union steward) for issues pertaining to how their work is done.
Leadership and Involvement and Influence
A leader’s specific leadership style and communication skills can have a significant influence on whether or not their team members feel involved in their work.
Leaders should foster an organizational culture where individual workers have some level of responsibility, autonomy and accountability for their work and should avoid micromanagement of their teams. Feedback should be able to be provided in both directions, with there being (as appropriate) top-down and bottom-up input on work-related decisions.
Leaders should also have ongoing training and mentorship in effective communication skills, including interpersonal problem solving and conflict management skills. Effective communication can make all the difference when it comes to a team’s ability to work independently. Tasks and responsibilities should be communicated clearly, and feedback and updates should be provided in a timely manner. When changes are made in the workplace, it’s important to communicate the reasoning behind decisions, and to encourage participation from workers whenever possible. For example, when there are problems in the work or work processes, ask workers to provide feedback on ways in which it could be improved.
Final Thoughts on Involvement and Influence – Ongoing Improvement
No one likes to feel as though they don’t have control over their lives – and considering the amount of time people are spending at work, it’s important for them to feel as though they have some control over their work. If you’re unsure whether or not your workers feel they have influence over their work or are involved in workplace processes, ask. Then think of creative solutions to problems that may arise and continue to provide ongoing training opportunities – particularly for people leaders.
Involvement and Influence is psychosocial factor 8 from the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety (PH&S) in the Workplace (CAN/CSA-Z1003-13/BNQ 9700-803/2013 – Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace). For more information, see also Guarding Minds at Work (Samra et al.).