Rethinking leadership and its importance for workplace wellbeing

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Employee wellbeing is gaining increasing attention in academic research as it is important component of workplace relations and Human Resource Management. Poor wellbeing can lead to chronic absenteeism, presenteeism, occupational and organisational risk, loss of productivity and damage to an employee’s reputation as an ethical organisation. This is particularly so in public sector organisations that engage in frontline emergency and first-responder work. Public organisations are subject to high levels of scrutiny and community expectations and operate with limited resource funding. The nature of work places unusual psychological, emotional and physical demands on workers who are likely to be involved with traumatising situations.Based on a study of a large public sector first-responder service organisation examining the factors that are impacting the wellbeing of frontline workers, the findings of this study suggests that the notion of leadership deserves deeper consideration as a mediating factor. There is considerable evidence that leadership plays an important role in enhancing employee wellbeing (Arnold, Turner, Barling, Kelloway, & McKee, 2007; Inceoglu, Thomas, Chu, Plans, & Gerbasi, 2018; McHugh, 2016). However the evidence is scattered and there remains important challenges for research on the complex interrelationships between leadership and employee wellbeing (Nielsen & Taris, 2019). The findings show that in spite of the analytical complexities, leadership is an important mediating factor in worker wellbeing and that the research on these relationships may need to run parallel with more contemporary and nuanced theorising on leadership. Such notions of leadership go beyond the actions of individual managers and consider leadership as a relational process, distributed and shared across the organisation.Arnold, K. A., Turner, N., Barling, J., Kelloway, E. K., & McKee, M. C. (2007). Transformational leadership and psychological well-being: the mediating role of meaningful work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(3), 193. Inceoglu, I., Thomas, G., Chu, C., Plans, D., & Gerbasi, A. (2018). Leadership behavior and employee well-being: An integrated review and a future research agenda. The Leadership Quarterly, 29(1), 179-202. McHugh, G. (2016). Measuring dimensions of a healthy workplace climate: A user-friendly assessment tool. International Journal of Disability Management, 11. Nielsen, K., & Taris, T. W. (2019). Leading well: Challenges to researching leadership in occupational health psychology – and some ways forward. Work & Stress, 33(2), 107-118. doi:10.1080/02678373.2019.1592263
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2020
EventAssociation of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand (AIRAANZ): 2020 Annual Conference - Rydges, Queenstown, New Zealand
Duration: 11 Feb 202014 Mar 2020
Conference number: 34 (Conference website) (program) (conference proceedings)


ConferenceAssociation of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand (AIRAANZ)
Abbreviated title'Doing things differently? IR practice and research beyond 2020’
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
OtherThe Association of Industrial Relations Academics in Australia and New Zealand are pleased to announce that the AIRAANZ 2020 Conference details have now been finalised. Next year, the conference will be held at Rydges, Queenstown, New Zealand from Tuesday 11 to Friday 14 February 2020.
The theme of the conference is: "Doing things differently? IR practice and research beyond 2020".
This theme allows us to explore all manner of employment related topics, and ask ourselves: what will be our focus in practice and research in the uncertain times ahead?
A special issue of Labour and Industry will feature papers from the conference.
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