Brief Manager-Employee Dialogs: a self-determination theory perspective

Ib Ravn, Lene Eriknauer

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskningpeer review


Background: Under the rubric of New Public Management, public sector managers in many countries have adopted the extrinsic-motivational factors prevalent in the business world: Key Performance Indicators, documentation requirements, bonuses, etc. Increasing pressures to perform are causing stress and burnout in employees. Managers often cannot find the time to attend to their employees’ well-being and quality of work life.

Aim: Research in Self-Determination Theory (SDT) [1] indicates that for people to thrive, their psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness must be satisfied. Studies in work motivation [2] show that autonomous regulation, in which employees have accepted and integrated work norms, presupposes a type of management communication that is supportive of their psychological needs. The aim of the present work is to delineate methods that will accomplish this, while respecting the time constraints of modern work.

Method: We devise a form of dialog called “brief manager-employee dialog” (akin to “brief therapy”: a client does not need 500 hours on the couch). Replacing hours-long department meetings and supplementing the too-infrequent annual performance review, the brief dialog is two or five minutes spent in directed conversation with an employee in a hallway or on a doorstep. The manager asks short questions, offers summary feedback and advice, and helps the employee focus and make progress, as inspired by the elements of need support identified in SDT (taking the other’s perspective, acknowledging feelings, provide choice and rationale, provide structure, give feedback on course and progress, ensure involvement, identify unique contribution, etc.) [3]. The present presentation will provide many examples of the short and precise questions, suggestions and invitations that managers can provide on the spot.

Results: Brief manager-employee dialogs serve to empower employees by providing them with the needs-supportive supervision and feedback that is often lacking in a busy workday. Today’s (young) employees want to be seen and acknowledged more frequently, so they know they are on track and on board.

Conclusions: The brief manager-employee dialog is a useful format for theory-guided management communication that addresses employees’ psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness, enabling them to perform and thrive at the same time.

1. Ryan, R.M., and Deci, E.L. (2017). Self-determination theory. New York. Guilford.
2. Gagné, M. (Ed.). (2014). The Oxford handbook of work engagement, motivation, and self-determination theory. Oxford University Press, USA.
3. Gagné, M. (2003). The role of autonomy support and autonomy orientation in prosocial behavior engagement. Motivation and Emotion, 27(3), 199-223.
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 2018
Begivenhed9th European Conference on Positive Psychology - Budapest, Ungarn
Varighed: 27 jun. 201830 jun. 2018
Konferencens nummer: 9


Konference9th European Conference on Positive Psychology