Nursing Leadership Use of Motivational Language on Employee Retention

Thursday, 15 July 2010

M. Lindell Joseph, PhD, RN
Center for Nursing Research & Innovation, Florida Hospital, Orlando, FL
Richard J. Bogue, PhD
The Center for Health Futures, Florida Hospital, Winter Park, FL

Learning Objective 1: Discuss a hospital’s strategy to improve shared values and trust among employees

Learning Objective 2: Review the results of three studies evaluating leadership use of motivational language

Purpose: To demonstrate and test a communication technique that impacts employee intent to leave.

Methods: Communication is a powerful catalyst for the creation of shared values and trust.  How organizational leaders communicate has been shown to affect employees’ organizational identification, trust, job satisfaction, retention, and performance.  The effect of Motivational Language (ML) on nursing has only been shown in one published study. Motivational Language describes three modes of communication that can improve managers’ communication, improving organizational identification, trust, satisfaction and retention.  These three modes of ML are (1) direction giving language, (2) empathetic language, and (3) meaning making language.

Three studies (n=78, n=141, n=545) were used to assess the associations between ML by nurse managers and impacts on their subordinates.  Participants were members of nursing practice councils, nurse managers, directors, and chief nursing officers at an 1100-bed tertiary hospital in the southeastern US.  Using a previously validated measure, nurses rated their intent to leave and their own managers' use of ML and values.  Managers then received reports giving them feedback on how their (anonymous) employees rate their ML and values.

Results: Regression analyses revealed that nurses’ intent to leave is predicted by their perceived job opportunities (p=0.001), how they perceive the values of their supervisors (p= 0.040), and how they rate their manager’s use of motivational language (p=0.002) and empathetic ML in particular (p=0.011).

Conclusion: ML is a method of communicating shared meaning, identification, understanding, and goals in nursing.  ML communication practices can be taught to managers in order to improve organizational identification and nurse loyalty.  Particularly when many communities are challenged to maintain engaged employees and an adequate level of nursing staff, improved ML skills among nurse managers may help build trust, improve nurse satisfaction and reduce nurses’ intent to leave.