In our research, the employees we surveyed overwhelmingly stated they need a leader who creates an atmosphere where trusting interpersonal relationships can develop. Recent research from the University of Groningen mirrors that finding. The researchers concluded that relatedness is by far the number one indicator for workplace meaning. 

They discovered that relatedness, autonomy, and competence are 4.6 times more impactful than compensation, benefits, career advancement, job insecurity, and working hours. The researchers also found that increased workplace meaning leads to fewer sick days, a greater willingness to participate in training, and a three-year delay in retirement. 

Small increases in work meaning, support healthy more productive workplaces. To focus on increasing relatedness, autonomy, and competence, we offer the three E’s model for developing workplace meaning. 

  • Engagement: when leaders focus on developing trusting relationships and creating an environment where relationships can flourish they increase employees’ relatedness. By showing care and concern and using open communication paired with active listening, leaders create an environment where relationships can be built. 
  • Empowerment: leaders who focus on building collaborative practices on the vision of their companies empower their employees. Using recognition and enthusiasm leaders can build autonomous teams that work toward the future vision of the organization. 
  • Expertise: building organizational expertise is a constant process. Wise leaders use a foundation of clear guiding principles along with their expertise to build confidence throughout the organization. Optimism for the future and humility allow the leader to include the voices of others while creating an expectation that current and future challenges are in fact opportunities. 

For more on the three E’s frameworks check out our book: Meaning-Centered Leadership: Skills and Strategies for Increased Employee Well-Being and Organizational Success.