Zenger Folkman Research:Turn Employee Prison into Paradise

Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:07am EST

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Zenger Folkman Research: Turn Employee Prison into Paradise

Study shows workplace satisfaction based on leadership effectiveness

There are times in people's careers when they feel like they’re serving a sentence in “day prison”—a place where they feel trapped and consider their job to be a boring, repetitive and mundane chore. Researchers at leadership development firm Zenger Folkman found that developing the strengths of leaders is the key to helping employees abandon this prison mentality and enjoy a happy and productive workday.

If you ask the average worker what would make them happy or improve their commitment at work, they will probably suggest reducing their workload or taking away challenging assignments,” said Dr. Joe Folkman, President of Zenger Folkman. “However, there is a very big difference between what people think would make them happy and committed and what actually increases employee satisfaction and engagement.”

The researchers examined results from over 150,000 employees in a global study by measuring the level of employee satisfaction and engagement and evaluating their leaders on 49 leadership behaviors. They identified the leadership behaviors that had the strongest link to highly satisfied and engaged employees, and found that four of the top six leadership behaviors focused on a leader’s ability to encourage and inspire their employees to achieve challenging goals.

The ticket out of “day prison” relies on a leader’s ability to do four things:

  1. Inspire employees to high levels of effort
  2. Energize employees to achieve exceptional results
  3. Create an atmosphere of continual improvement
  4. Get employees to stretch for goals that go beyond what they originally thought possible

Despite what people think, simply making their job easier will not make them happier.

“Employees need to feel like they are progressing,” Dr. Folkman said. “If you think about a time when you did something extraordinary at work, most likely you accomplished a difficult goal that was important to the organization.”

What makes employees happy and committed? It is helping them accomplish difficult tasks that make a real difference for the organization.


As one of the nation’s top leadership development firms as ranked by Leadership Excellence and Trainingindustry.com, Zenger Folkman employs evidence-based methods that improve organizations and the people within them.

Snapp Conner PR
Cheryl Snapp Conner, 801-994-9625