Landmark Study Reveals That Senior Management Has a Far Greater Impact on Discretionary Effort than an Employee’s Immediate Boss


It’s a long held belief that the immediate boss has the most influence over how much discretionary effort an employee is willing to apply toward his or her job.  Towers Perrin, in their Global Workforce Study which included nearly 90,000 workers from 18 countries, found this not to be true.  The study found that while the impact of the immediate boss is large, the top single driver of discretionary effort is “senior management’s sincere interest in employee well being.”  In other words, does senior management consistently demonstrate that it truly cares about front line employees?  The study goes on to say: “Senior managers now know that it is not enough for them to observe the significance of employee engagement (willingness to apply discretionary effort) from afar and then task their HR and line managers to do something about it.  They themselves represent part of the problem, and a major part of the solution.”  The study indicates that senior management could significantly increase levels of employee discretionary effort “…by doing a few simple things sincerely, consistently and well.  In order of importance the top three of these are: 


  1. Communicate openly and honestly
  2. Be visible and accessible
  3. Show support for new ideas.”

      The study also points out that senior management’s function as role models for managers throughout the organization cannot be overestimated.  “Their interest in staff, even if demonstrated in small ways, will be carefully noted by others lower down the management structure.”


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About Ross Reck

Who am I? I am the author of The Engagement Formula, Turning Your Customers into Your Sales Force, The X-Factor and my popular weekly newsletter: Ross Reck’s Weekly Reminder. I'm also the coauthor of Instant Turnaround!, REVVED! and the best selling The Win-Win Negotiator. I've also spoken at hundreds of meetings, conferences and conventions throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe and Asia. My consulting clients include Hewlett-Packard, John Deere, American Express, Janssen-Ortho, Inc., Shire Pharmaceuticals, Philip Morris International, the Chicago Cubs, Rolls-Royce and Xerox. I received my Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1977. From 1975 to 1985 I served a Professor of Management at Arizona State University. During my career at ASU I was the only two-time recipient of the prestigious “Teaching Excellence in Continuing Education” award and was identified by the university as an “Outstanding Teacher.” In 1985 I left my position at ASU to search full-time for a new "Management Model" to replace the current model with it's emphasis on authority, control and formal communication channels. Last February, I found it (it's actually a leadership model) and it's featured in my new book, The Engagement Formula: Three Simple Steps that Guarantee Full Employee Engagement.

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