This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center based on the original study.

Dr. April Cen Yue and Dr. Patrick Thelen studied how servant leadership (a style of leadership that prioritizes serving those within the organization over oneself and shows outward concern for others) influences employee perceptions of organizational reputation. To understand the nuances of this relationship, the researchers also considered an additional factor, employee psychological empowerment (employees feeling cared for and valued).

They hypothesized that when employees perceive servant leadership from their supervisors, it will lead them to feel empowered, which in turn leads employees to feel a greater sense of learning and increased vitality. Due to this positive experience from leadership, the researchers thought this may spill over into employee perceptions of the organization and how they perceive their organization’s reputation. This relationship has important implications in further understanding how employees thrive at work, and how internal public relations, including leadership communication, plays a role.

An online survey of 357 full-time employees from Chile was conducted in February 2020, with results translated from Spanish to English. 

Key Findings
1.) When employees thought their supervisors practiced servant leadership, they had more positive perceptions of their organization’s reputation.
2.) Employees who felt that they were thriving at work also had more positive perceptions of their organization’s reputation. 
3.) Employees felt more empowered at work when their supervisors practiced servant leadership.
4.) Employee psychological empowerment (employees feeling cared for and valued) was associated with increased feelings of empowerment and thriving at work. 
5.) Managers in the communication industry should practice servant leadership to empower employees and make them feel more positively about their organization. 

Implications for Practice

Organizations and their leaders should understand that when employees feel good about themselves, such as being empowered and feeling thriving, they may also have a high opinion about where they work. In addition, organizations should recruit and promote managers who practice servant leadership and encourage the serving ethos among existing management. Finally, communication and HR professionals should implement strategies that enable employees to continually learn and rejuvenate and evaluate employees’ energy levels and motivation to learn.

Click here to learn more about the relationship between how leaders speak to their people, servant leadership, and employee perceptions of organizational reputation.

Yue, C. A., & Thelen, P. (2023). What drives perceived internal reputation? Empirical evidence from Chile. Journal of Communication Management, (ahead-of-print).

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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