Manufacturing Motivation in the Mundane: Servant Leadership’s Influence on Employees’ Intrinsic Motivation and Performance

Journal of Business Ethics 188 (3):533-552 (2023)
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Abstract

The manufacturing industry faces a trend in which employees’ work processes are being redesigned into simple, repetitive tasks that maximize performance and efficiency. This neo-Tayloristic business model reduces social interactions and stifles relationship building, leading to disgruntled employees and raising questions about leaders’ moral obligation as to the mechanisms they use to enhance employees’ performance at work. As an alternative to redesigning work processes, we contend that servant leaders can enhance employees’ overall performance by cultivating positive interpersonal dynamics at work where social connectedness flourishes. Integrating insights from self-determination theory with servant leadership’s moral foundations, we investigate the degree to which servant leadership fosters two elements of a relationally supportive social context, interactional justice climate and coworker support, that facilitate its influence on followers’ intrinsic motivation and, subsequently, their voice and in-role performance. Temporally-separated data collected from a sample of 296 employees and their supervisors situated in 44 teams yielded results that support our hypotheses. Results underscore the importance of servant leadership cultivating a positive relational context to increase employees’ intrinsic motivation and improve their behaviors at work.

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