Rita Linjuan Men Named 2013-14 Arthur W. Page Center Legacy Scholar

Grant to fund research on how managerial leadership affects employee engagement

Happy employees mean better business. 

According to Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication Rita Linjuan Men, employees who are engaged in their work tend to fuel stronger company growth, profits and productivity, as well as employee positivity, energy and dedication.  This year, thanks to a $3,000 grant from Penn State’s Arthur W. Page Center, Men will examine two factors known to foster employee engagement: ethical leadership and “symmetrical internal communication.”

According to Men, “symmetrical internal communication” is a two-way communication practice that emphasizes characteristics such as trust, openness, feedback and information-sharing. “It’s based on the principles of employee empowerment and employee participation in decision-making, and tends to breed job satisfaction and loyalty,” she says.

“Ethical leadership” is identified by the way managers interact with their employees. Markers include aspects such as fairness, power sharing, role clarification and integrity. 

An expert in the area of corporate relationships and communication, Men has presented over 20 papers at conferences over the past five years. Her goals for the new Page Legacy Scholar research include fortifying data on how the two factors contribute to employee engagement.  If her hypotheses linking the factors to employee engagement are proven, the findings will “help organizations nurture best communication practices in an ethical manner, breed internal excellence and engage employees,” says Men, “all of which benefit the company over time.”

For her Page Legacy Scholar research, Men will survey 400 employees with various demographic profiles from several medium- to large-sized organizations across the United States. Questions will ask employees about their experiences with their managers, their evaluation of corporate communication, and will also measure employees' level of engagement, including attention, absorption, enthusiasm and more.

One additional element to be addressed in the findings is an examination of the counterbalancing effect that positive ethical leadership and symmetrical communication can have against corporate scandals and management malfeasance. “Scandals that involve top executives in failed companies such as Enron demonstrate the destructive consequences of unethical leadership,” says Men. Men’s research dovetails with the mission of the Arthur Page Center, which is to foster ethics and responsibility in corporate communication.

The research is expected to conclude by June 30, 2014, after which findings will be offered for publication in scholarly journals.

To read more about Dr. Men click here.