Enthusiastic Employee, The: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want

David Sirota / Douglas A. Klein  
Total pages
July 2013
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Enthusiastic Employee, The: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want
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This book is about employee enthusiasm: that special, invigorating, purposeful and emotional state that’s always present in the most successful organizations. Most people are enthusiastic when they’re hired: hopeful, ready to work hard, eager to contribute. What happens? Management, that’s what.


The Enthusiastic Employee is an action-oriented book that helps companies obtain more from workers - the basic premise is that under the right kind of leadership, the more one side wins in a collaborative relationship, the more for the other side. The book is heavily evidence-based (using extensive employee survey data) and lays out two basic ideas: the “Three-Factor Theory” of human motivation at work and the “Partnership” company culture that is based on the Three-Factor Theory and that, by far, brings out the best in people as they respond with enthusiasm about what they do and the company they do it for.


Drawing on research with 13,000,000+ employees in 840+ companies, The Enthusiastic Employee, Second Edition tells you what managers (from first-line supervisor to senior leadership) do wrong. Then it tells you something much more important: what to do instead. David Sirota and Douglas Klein detail exactly how to create an environment where enthusiasm flourishes and businesses excel. Extensively updated with new research, case studies, and techniques (they have added over 8.6 million employees and over 400 companies to their analyses ), it now contains a detailed study of Mayo Clinic, one of the world’s most effective healthcare organizations and a true representation of the principle of partnership, as well as more in-depth descriptions of private sector exemplars of partnership, such as Costco. Other new chapters include: how the Great Recession really impacted workers’ morale (bottom-line, it didn’t) and how to build a true Partnership Culture that starts with senior leadership. They now debunk fashionable theories of worker “generations” (Baby Boomers, Gen X, Y, etc.) as mostly nonsense… clarify what they’ve learned about making business ethics and corporate social responsibility actionable… share what research on merit pay (pay for individual performance) tells us about its likely impact on school teachers and performance (not good)…discuss the utility of teleworking (and the dust-up at Yahoo)…offer compelling, data-informed insights about women and minorities in the workplace, and much more. You can have enthusiastic employees, and it does matter – more than it ever has.


Whether you’re a business leader, HR/talent management professional, or strategist, that’s the workforce you need – and this is the book that will help you get it.



The #1 guide to improving productivity by improving employee attitude - now extensively revised with new insights, cases, and research. 

  • Stop demotivating employees and start bringing out their best: specific, practical, evidence-based techniques for line managers and senior leaders
  • The “dollars-and-cents” business case: you can have enthusiastic employees, and it does matter – enormously
  • Now addresses long-term impacts of the Great Recession, and presents a new guide to building Partnership Cultures
  • Important new research on pay-for-performance
  • New full-length case study from one of the world’s best employers, The Mayo Clinic
  • Reflects research with 4,000,000+ employees in 250+ companies

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments    xi

About the Authors    xiii

About the Second Edition    xv

Our New Website    xx

Introduction    1

Asking the Questions    4

Asking the Right Questions    4

Questions Result in Data    6

After the Honeymoon    11

A Quick Look at “Old-Fashioned” Theories    12

Solid Theory, Research, and Management Practice to Which We Are in Debt    15

How This Book Is Organized    15

Part I  Worker Motivation, Morale, and Performance    17

Chapter 1  What Workers Want—The Big Picture    19

Blame It on the Young    20

The Lordstown Strike and Job Enrichment “Solution”    22

The Generation Gap Mythology Re-Emerges    24

Myths About the Work Itself    29

The Sirota Three-Factor Theory    32

The Specific Evidence for the Three-Factor Theory    45

How the Three Factors Work in Combination    52

Racial/Ethnic and Gender Differences    55

Individual Differences    62

Chapter 2  Employee Enthusiasm and Business Success    67

Making the Connection    67

Telling Us in Their Own Words    69

A Few Leading Organizations    74

“Enthusiasm” Versus “Engagement”    79

Enthusiasm and Performance: The Research Evidence    81

Building the People Performance Model    86

Part II  Enthusiastic Workforces, Motivated by Fair Treatment    93

Chapter 3  Job Security    95

Specific Job Security Policies and Practices    107

Chapter 4  Compensation    117

Money as Seen by Workers    117

Money as Seen by Employers    118

Levels of Pay    122

Paying for Performance    133

Recommendations    143

A Note on Merit Pay for Teachers    157

Chapter 5  The Impact of the Great Recession: Flight to Preservation    161

The Survey Results    165

The Role of Management    176

Chapter 6  Respect    181

The Heart of Respect    184

Humiliating Treatment    186

Indifferent Treatment    188

The Specifics of Respectful Treatment    193

Physical Conditions of Work    195

Status Distinctions    196

Compensation Status Is a Fundamental Distinction    200

Job Autonomy    203

Constrained Communication    206

Part III  Enthusiastic Workforces, Motivated by Achievement    213

Chapter 7  Organization Purpose and Principles    215

Elements of Pride in One’s Company    215

The Impact on Performance of “Doing Good”    219

Short- Versus Long-Term Profit Horizon    225

More About Purpose    231

More About Principles    232

Ethics in the Treatment of Employees    233

Getting Practical: Translating Statements of Purposes and Principles into Practice    238

Chapter 8  Job Enablement    255

Ah, Bureaucracy! The Evil That Just Won’t Go Away    262

A Management Style That Works    269

Layers of Management    274

The Benefits of Self-Managed Teams    278

Telecommuting: Yahoo Bans Work-From-Home    283

Chapter 9  Job Challenge    295

Is This an Aberration, Are Workers Delusional, or Are They Lying?    297

Given a Choice, Few People Volunteer to Fail    300

Push and Pull    302

Chapter 10  Feedback, Recognition, and Reward    313

Do Workers Get the Feedback They Need?    313

Guidance    315

A Short Course on Giving Cognitive Feedback    318

Evaluation, Recognition, and Reward    330

What Makes for Effective Recognition of Workers?    333

Advancement    340

The Other Side of the Equation: Dealing with Unsatisfactory Performance    343

Feedback Sets Priorities    347

Part IV  Enthusiastic Workforces, Motivated by Camaraderie    349

Chapter 11  Teamwork    351

A Look Back    352

Are We Doing Better Now?    353

Socializing While Working    354

Uncooperative Co-Workers Have an Exponentially Negative Effect    356

Contentious Workgroups Are Drags on the Organization    357

Building Partnership    362

How Can the Misperceptions Be Uncovered, Confronted, and Corrected?    364

Lay the Foundation Prior to the Workshop    367

Establish Workshop Ground Rules    367

A Typical Workshop Agenda    369

Action Example: IT and Its Users    370

Part V  Bringing It All Together: The Culture of Partnership    375

Chapter 12  The Culture of Partnership    377

Application to Other Constituencies    395

A Cultural Case Study of Mayo Clinic    396

Partnership in These Times    405

Chapter 13  Leadership and the Partnership Culture    411

The Critical Importance of Effective Leadership    412

Trust    414

Charisma    417

The Nine Key Leadership Attributes    421

Chapter 14  Translating Partnership Theory into Partnership Practice    431

It Starts at the Top    433

The Action Process    436

Endnotes    457

Index    479


Back Cover

“This second, updated edition of The Enthusiastic Employee takes the art and science of enterprise management to the next stage. I recommend it enthusiastically to all business leaders seeking to build the morale, loyalty, and performance of employees at all levels.”

–Richard Parsons, former Chairman and CEO of Time Warner


“All CEOs should consider the common sense, data-driven, time-tested suggestions contained in The Enthusiastic Employee. This is a book for any industry and applies to all generations of employees. The authors’ emphasis on an open and collaborative culture that focuses on customer needs is spot on and their data and case studies of the business impact of that culture cannot be ignored. If you want one comprehensive book this year on leading and managing people, this should be your choice.”

–Steve Bennett, President and CEO–Symantec


“Stop demotivating your employees! How true. The Enthusiastic Employee shows precisely how to do that through policies that unleash, rather than dampen, employee motivation and enthusiasm. Based on their extensive research, the authors offer clear insights into what makes people tick and how those insights can be put into practice. This book is a must read for all HR and line leaders unhappy with mediocre–or even “pretty good”–performance.”

–Victoria Berger-Gross, Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources–Tiffany & Co.


“David Sirota was in many ways one of the best advisers I ever had. He was made wise in management by years of listening to (and learning from) workers. There are lots of books of business advice; I recommend this one, and its author and able new co-author, Douglas Klein.”

–Donald E. Graham, Chairman and CEO–The Washington Post Co.


“I would strongly recommend this book to any senior Human Resources leader or line executive interested in effective approaches to the management of people. David and Doug have woven a compelling storyline, backed by voluminous research evidence, that is easy to understand and absolutely impossible to ignore. They demolish various myths about people at work and replace fads with evidence-based recommendations. This is a must read for any leader seeking to bring their organization to peak performance.”

–Sherry A. Whiteley, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer–Intuit


Enthusiastic employees outperform. They step up. They rally each other in tough times. They do the “impossible.”


These days, you need enthusiastic employees more than ever. You work hard to hire them. This book shows how to keep them as enthusiastic as they were when they came on board.


Based on research with 8.6 million employees in 412 companies, The Enthusiastic Employee is relentlessly evidence-driven. Extensively updated for the Great Recession, the so-called Millennial generation, and the newest research about workforce diversity, its findings will surprise (maybe even shock) you.


David Sirota and Douglas A. Klein show why the dollars-and-cents business case for greater employee satisfaction has grown even stronger in recent years. They present powerfully convincing data on the deepening linkages between employee attitudes and shareholder value.


Next, they guide you through delivering all three research-proven components of lasting employee enthusiasm: true workplace fairness, pride in one’s work and organization, and the experience of camaraderie. You won’t find handwaving or generalities here. You will find specific management practices that drive greater enthusiasm–and powerful improvements in performance.


 • What employees want, feel, and believe today–after the Great Recession

The impact of the recession on views of pay, benefits, job security, and bosses–and why it matters


 • Build a partnership culture where loyalty actually thrives

How to create the collaboration and trust that is at the heart of every great, enduring business


 • Sustain employee enthusiasm for the long-term

Lessons from those who’ve done it (Mayo Clinic, Costco)…and those who haven’t


 • Use today’s most powerful motivator: achievement

Integrate purpose, principles, enablement, challenge, feedback, recognition, and reward



David Sirota has two abiding professional interests: organization behavior and survey research. Both of these interests took hold at the University of Michigan, where he received his doctorate, and where he worked at that university’s Institute for Social Research, a leading center for applying survey methods to the study of organizations. Upon receiving his doctorate, David was recruited by International Business Machines (IBM) to help initiate behavioral science research there. He stayed at IBM for 12 years in a variety of research and executive positions, leaving in 1972 to set up his own firm, Sirota Consulting, now simply Sirota. The firm specializes in the diagnosis and improvement of the relationships of organizations with all of their key constituencies: employees, customers, suppliers, investors, and communities. In 1996, David became chairman emeritus of the firm, after completing his own succession plan with key employees. He continues to consult with selected clients, primarily on matters of leadership, and collaboration and conflict within and between organizations.


Parallel to his career as a consultant, David has had an academic career, having taught at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations of Cornell University, the School of Industrial Administration of Yale University, the Sloan School of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


David is married with two children and lives in New York City.


Douglas Klein is, likewise, steeped in survey research, with 25 years of experience in the field. Prior to joining Sirota, he worked for AT&T, building leadership assessment centers and conducting employee research, and then at Time Warner, where he conducted employee and customer satisfaction research. Doug brought his insights into employee and customer research to Sirota and helped launch its “linkage” efforts, statistically relating employee attitudes, customer attitudes, and “hard” business metrics. He managed the normative database for the firm for more than a decade (on which so much in the book’s first and second editions is based) and is seen by many as a real historian of employee attitudes. His current role as the firm’s chief leadership advisor allows him to apply his strong analytical skills and decades of client experience to issues of organizational values and culture and to the day-to-day problems faced by senior executives in the management of their companies.


Doug is an active advisor, speaker, and writer. (See his blog on www.sirota.com and search for the many articles he has authored or to which he has contributed.) He holds a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology from New York University.


Doug lives in Merrick, New York, with his wife Ilene and their two children.