The tie between supervisor and supervised is loosening

The recently released 2013 TINYpulse Employee Engagement Survey makes for fascinating reading. It’s a unique study in many ways. Over 40,000 people were polled, and the data crunched by data scientists mean that its a great source of solid information. I am likely to return to it many times in the next few weeks.

As one example of the sensitivity of the findings, consider that this is the first study to show a transition away from the relationship between employee happiness and direct supervisors and the growing importance of the link with coworkers and happiness. As the report says,

The employee’s rating of their relationship with co-workers is very strongly correlated with how happy they are at work with a correlation coefficient of .92. At the same time, the correlation between employee happiness and their rating of their direct supervisor is less significant at .74. We often think of employee happiness and satisfaction as being manager-driven, but now as the workplace becomes more cross-matrixed, collaborative, and “bottom-up,” the importance of co-worker relationships continues to grow. Employee happiness is 23.3% more correlated to connections with co-workers than direct supervisors.


The implications of this trend are profound and suggest that every person in a company plays an important role in the health and happiness of a vibrant employee culture. It’s not just the CEO and one’s manager anymore. Just like every member of a football team plays an integral role to the success of the overall team, each team member means even more to the other team members than the manager does now.

Screenshot 2013-12-13 06.29.03

When I talk about the fast-and-loose company I am not talking about risky, immoral behavior. The loose side of things means specifically that there is a relaxing of the strong ties in the company, most obviously between supervisor and the supervisor, with a diffusion of the various roles that managers were intended to play in the 20th century business out to a widening network of coworkers, mentors, and non-direct management. I have been calling the result circumvision (see Why are disengaged employees disengaged?, and Prosocial bonuses lead to higher performance: a case of circumvision beating supervision), where feedback, bonuses, and ‘promotion’ can be taken from the hands of a single person and distributed across a set of coworkers.

The trend that the TINYpulse survey touches on goes very deep into the foundational changes in the transition to a cooperative, fast-and-loose business and the adoption of the third way of work.