• Managers were surveyed over 10 days about how much they felt appreciated, for a study by the University of Central Florida.
  • Feeling more appreciated led to more energy, which translated into higher levels of optimism, life satisfaction, job satisfaction and helping others.
  • To combat workplace burnout, employers need to support managers as well as staff.

It’s not just employees who need appreciation – bosses do, too.

And when supervisors are appreciated, it’s a win-win for workers and the business.

This is according to a study into feelings of appreciation in the workplace by the University of Central Florida.

“We know when supervisors have feelings of depletion – or low energy – negative things happen. For example, when bosses have low energy, they engage in more abusive supervision, creating worse workplaces for their employees,” Maureen Ambrose, Professor of Business Ethics at University of Central Florida, told EurekAlert.

Appreciation goes both ways

The study – My Cup Runneth Over – asked 79 supervisors to respond to surveys twice a day for 10 consecutive workdays. Each day, participants recorded how much they felt appreciated by their teams, how energetic they felt and how it affected them personally and professionally.

“On days supervisors felt more appreciated, they had more energy, and this translated into higher levels of optimism, life satisfaction, job satisfaction and helping,” says study co-author Susan Sheridan, who is Assistant Professor of Leadership at Clemson University in South Carolina.

This was a new connection in this field of research, which typically focuses solely on the downward influence of supervisors on their employees – not the other way around, Sheridan adds.

What causes burnout

Lessening job stress on employees can have a significant impact on a business’s bottom line, say the report’s authors.

Job stress costs US industry more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and medical, legal and insurance costs, according to the American Institute of Stress.

A report last year on employee burnout by Gallup found 76% of employees experience burnout on the job at least sometimes, and 28% say they are burned out “very often” or “always” at work.

Gallup’s report, Employee Burnout: Causes and Cures, lists 15 factors that correlate most highly with employee burnout. The top five are:

  • Unfair treatment at work
  • Unmanageable workload
  • Unclear communication from managers
  • Lack of manager support
  • Unreasonable time pressure

“All five of these factors are significantly influenced by manager behaviour,” says Ben Wigert, Gallup’s Director of Research and Strategy, Workplace Management. “Managers have a responsibility to protect against unfair treatment in the workplace, communicate clearly and provide support.”

Percentage of employees who feel burned out at work 'very often' or 'always.'

An occasional break

However, managers themselves can experience burnout if employers fail to provide the necessary training and support for them.

“In this way, burnout can easily cascade throughout an entire organizational structure,” Wigert says. “Leaders, managers and individual contributors all need an occasional break – a little time off to recover from an intense week or a particularly rough patch.”

Updated employee burnout figures from Gallup suggest the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new threat – high levels of burnout amongst remote workers.

“Fully remote workers are now experiencing more burnout than on-site workers,” Gallup says.

Managers can mitigate the risk of burnout for remote employees by allowing more flexibility “and time throughout the day to deal with stress and disruptions and tend to personal wellbeing”.