This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center
In today’s complex, dynamic, and service-oriented business environment, internally motivated employees have great potential to address organizational challenges and opportunities. Employees who are intrinsically motivated to enhance their overall performance are called “self-leaders.” Instead of being a substitute for external leadership, self-leadership can partner with and be facilitated by external leadership, to improve organizational and individual welfare.
Self-leadership encompasses three components: behavioral strategies (i.e., employees use self-cues, self-reward, and self-punishment), constructive thoughts (i.e., employees engage in positive self-talk and self-affirmation), and natural rewards (i.e., employees emphasize the beneficial part of a task while deflecting its more unpleasant aspects).
Researchers examined the relationship between leader motivating language and employee self-leadership practices (behavioral strategies, constructive thoughts, and natural reward). Leader motivating language includes three types of messaging: meaning-making language (words that are used to guide employees in their work), empathetic language (words that implicitly reaffirm employees’ sense of self-worth), and direction-giving language (words that reduce employee uncertainty and increase their knowledge). Researchers also examined how these factors promote employee job satisfaction, performance, and intent to stay at their job and/or organization.
An online survey of 668 employees was conducted. Of the final respondents, 41% were female and 59% were male. The average respondent was 35 years old. In terms of work experience, the average respondent had 13.6 years of full-time experience, 4.7 years of part-time work experience, had been working with their current employer for 5.8 years and had been in their current position for 4.8 years.
1.) Leaders’ use of meaning-making language, direction-giving language, and empathetic language can nurture employees’ use of self-leadership behavioral strategies, constructive thoughts strategies, and natural rewards strategies.
2.) When a leader used motivating language, employees were more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, perform better at their jobs, and have a higher intention to stay.
3.) Different self-leadership practices can help achieve different organizational and personal goals.
— Employees who adopt the self-leadership behavioral strategy have higher job satisfaction.
— Employees who use constructive thinking strategies tend to have higher job satisfaction and retention intention.
— Employees who use natural reward strategies are more likely to improve job satisfaction, job performance, and willingness to stay.
Implications for Practice
Organizations can effectively improve employee contribution, employee fulfillment, and improve organizational and individual welfare by providing leader training in motivating language and by providing employee training in self-leadership strategies. Organizations should also set learning goals to guide training efforts (i.e., highlight relevant skills for both leaders and employees in the training curriculum).
Mayfield, J., Mayfield, M., & Neck, C. P. (2021). Speaking to the self: How motivating language links with self-leadership. International Journal of Business Communication, 58(1), 31-54.
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