The Role of the Manager/Supervisor in Well-being

image of a woman clapping and smilingA manager/supervisor has a unique positon to utilize policies, programs, resources and best practices to establish positive behavior and culture.

In a large organization such as UC Davis, managers and supervisors have the flexibility to find and utilize vast available resources, coupled with their own discretion and management style, to create an environment with systems supporting employee well-being. 

Components of reaching that goal include:

  1. Awareness: Where to Find Policies and Programs
  2. Communication
  3. Organizational Support: Creating and Influencing an Environment of Well-being
  4. Culture: Creating and Influencing Employee Engagement
  5. Motivation and Encouragement
  6. Lead by Example: Self-care and Resulting Modeling
  7. Integrate into Work/Engage Employees
  8. Using Specific Tools: UC Davis Options

A manager/supervisor is primarily responsible for the extent to which any employee on their team either engages or does not engage with wellness offerings and worklife programming. Every manager/supervisor has the opportunity to either act as a cultivator or as a gatekeeper.


Health and Well-being programming can often be spread through several units on the typical University of California Campus. A google or campus search can be the best resource for finding exactly what you need.

Below please find Well-being services for the UC Davis Campus:

Human Resources Specific (policy and procedures):


A manager/supervisor is the link between management and the workforce. WHAT is communicated can establish culture. Choosing to communicate policy and programming concerning well-being automatically encourages a culture of well-being. Communicating the programs, policies, events, services, resources both on and off-campus is the role of the “multiplier” supervisor. Identify the best form of communication for your staff:

  • Posters and Infographics for physical workspaces (breakrooms, restrooms and printers are a great location).
  • Specific or forwarded email communications (at UC Davis, get on lists and forward the quarterly newsletters: eg: Worklife, SFHWB etc.)
  • Regular meetings: Schedule a well-being topic into staff meetings.  For example, during Plan your Vacation month (observed in January) sit down with a calendar and the whole team to encourage taking their earned vacation and make a staffing plan for the year to accommodate unit or department needs. Alternatively, ask WorkLife to present at your next staff meeting.
  • Personal check-ins with your staff:  This allows you to determine if they have any specific concerns for which you can provide resources. Brush-up on listening skills.

Organizational Support: Creating and Influencing an Environment of Well-being:

What is organizational support? It’s the resources and nudges an organization intentionally provides employees to encourage improvement. It comes in many forms:

Local Support:

  • Manager Support: an employee’s direct supervisor who can be the biggest obstacle or influence (multiplier/cultivator or gatekeeper).
  • Team/Peer Support: the people an employee directly works with every day/typically same manager.
  • Social networks: formal and informal networks that provide support for well-being improvement.
  • Physical Work Environment: the characteristics that make up an employee’s physical space.

Organization-wide Support:

  • Strategic alignment: direct connect between business strategy, people strategy and wellbeing initiatives. This can easily be tied to providing “meaning” in work for employees.
  • Leadership support: primary messengers of business strategy and the importance of employee well-being.
  • Well-being tools and programs: an organization’s well-being activities, tools, policies, guidelines, campaigns, platforms and programs.
  • Culture: the underlying norms, values and beliefs of an organization that drive employee behavior.

University of California and the individual campus locations already have multiple policies and programming (strategic alignment) to encourage and support well-being. Tap into these.

The data shows that employees are more likely to feel higher levels of well-being when they feel higher levels of organizational support. 72% of employees with high well-being say they also have high organizational support. (Limeade/QuantumWorkplace 2015) The opposite is true, too — employees are more likely to feel lower levels of well-being when they perceive lower organizational support.

Many companies and organizations institute wellness programs that focus on encouraging employees to eat better or exercise more. Meanwhile, they overlook the atmosphere of the workplace setting itself. We need to get serious about creating a workplace where people feel valued, trusted, and respected, where they are engaged in their work, have a degree of autonomy, and can get home in time for family dinner. 

Organizational support plays a big role in well-being. However, the Limeade research identified supportive managers as the most important predictor of well-being in employees:

  • A strong manager relationship leads to more productive, efficient and loyal employees who create less conflict.
  • Employees supervised by a highly engaged manager are 59% more likely to be engaged.
  • When employees feel their employer cares about their well-being, they’re 38% more likely to be engaged.

Tips to Enhance Support (PDF)
Manager Support, Teams/Peers, Social Networks, Physical Work Environment, Strategic Alignment,
Leadership Support, Tools and Programs, Culture Support

Culture Change: Creating and Influencing Employee Engagement

“Culture is the collective values, norms and beliefs of the organization — also known as “how things are done around here.” It’s the backdrop for everything that happens at your company and the day-to-day experience.  Organization and Unit culture should be aligned with business strategy.

A culture’s characteristics are not overt or concrete, but they’re nonetheless powerful because they shape employee behavior — telling people what to pay attention to, what things mean, how to react emotionally and how to behave. Culture is ubiquitous throughout the organization, even though it may present itself differently from one department to the next. Whether a culture is “good” or “bad” is relative, depending on the behavior and results it drives. Ideally, the culture should foster an environment that produces or enhances employee engagement.

Cultural Attributes to Examine:

  • Top-down decision making VS Participative decision making
  • Rigid VS Relaxed
  • Cold VS Caring
  • Disjointed VS Integrated
  • Quantity focused VS Quality focused
  • Hierarchical VS Flat
  • Micromanaged VS Autonomous
  • Reactive VS Proactive
  • Secretive VS Honest/Transparent
  • Relationship saving VS Truth telling
  • Indifferent VS Curious
  • Silence VS Appreciation & Recognition

graphic showing motivating factorsMotivation and Encouragement

Understanding Employee Motivation:

The 4-Drive Theory of Employee Motivation states that there are four main drives that motivate employees. Leaders can begin to influence and start to fulfill each of these drives by using some of the systems and processes they already have in place. Changes and enhancements to those systems can help the organization become one in which employees can satisfy their drives and become highly motivated.

  • Drive A: Acquire and Achieve:  This drive encompasses extrinsic elements that are both physical (i.e., money, things) and emotional (i.e., recognition).  This drive is satisfied primarily through an organization’s total reward system  but can be enhanced through direct manager/supervisor recognition efforts.
  • Drive B: Bond and Belong: (social creatures, social component of work) This drive is about more than just one-on-one relationships, it includes our drive to belong to things such as a team or clique. This drive is heavily dependent on Organizational Culture and can be enhanced by managers/supervisors through the promotion of team-building exercises and encouragement of pro-social work environments.
  • Drive C: Create and Challenge: This drive is not just about learning but about mastering challenges.  We are innately driven to tackle challenges that are placed in front of us. This drive is dependent upon job and organizational structure as well as manager/supervisor skills and encouragement of Professional Development to optimize opportunities to learn and grow. Managers/supervisors should aim to place staff in the sweet spot between difficulty and skill (FLOW) in order to reduce anxiety/stress and maintain interest in tasks. 
  • Drive D: Define and Defend: We defend those institutions and beliefs that we hold dear and with which we find meaning and passion for purpose. This drive is met through an employee feeling alignment and connection to the organization. The manager/supervisor can leverage motivation finding meaning in the noble goals and mission of the University of California.

What Great Leaders DO to Motivate:

  1. Focus on all four drives simultaneously: Research shows that weakness on fulfilling one of the 4-Drives negatively affects how the company or leader performs on the other three.
  2. Individualize Motivation: Research indicates that different demographics and personalities respond differently to the 4-drives.  Identify the top motivation for each employee to customize (consider Strengths Assessment for your team).
  3. Communicate Effectively: Great leaders create the talking points that get discussed.  Explain the multiple reasons of each action.
  4. Experiment: Employee motivation is an on-going commitment that requires thought, experimentation and adjustment. Managers and supervisors should implement new structures and processes and see how they work, add a new twist on an old program, do something new or stop doing something always done.

Lead by Example: Self-Care and Resulting Modeling

Managers and supervisors are in a unique position to help shape the work culture and inspire a commitment to health and well-being by empowering the people you work with to learn more about their health and well-being. By participating in well-being promoting activities (including tools such as flex work) and encouraging your co-workers to take small steps towards a healthier lifestyle, you can make a difference.

First, being in the manager/supervisor role, you have particular well-being challenges that must be addressed as self-care issues. Modeling behaviors for the sake of “being a good role-model” is not effective. Make a conscious decision to enhance your personal well-being and the subsequent actions and results will indeed be that authentic “role-model” you strive to be.

Second, model behavior that encourages healthy worklife and wellness practices. This makes it easier to incorporate well-being practices into your management style for your unit. Specifically, establish the following well-being practices and follow them yourself!

Encourage and Model:

  • use of earned vacation
  • use of sick-time when sick
  • use of lunch and break times to re-charge
  • frequent stretch and walk breaks
  • walking outside to re-set one’s body and brain
  • walking meetings/use of the stairs instead of elevators
  • healthy staff snacking/sharing
  • workplace flex to address incidental, short-term issues as well as strategic longer-term adoption
  • team input and collaboration
  • recognition for a job well-done
  • connection with others


  • use of email communication during non-work hours
  • “overwork” as a display of dedication to job
  • belief that busyness is a badge of honor
  • avoiding assistance or feedback

Integrate Into Work/Engage Your Employees

Once you have established some well-being practices in your modeling behavior, build upon these new baselines of well-being to enhance your team with specific tools and programming. The sections on Creating Worklife Integration and Creating A Healthy Work Environment provide specific tips. 

Overall, integration as a concept is best accomplished with the following tips:

  • Include a conversation about healthy lifestyles and the wellness initiatives during a new employee’s first days of employment.
  • Explain campus well-being programming and how it can be accessed.
  • Announce your support for participating in well-being programming.
  • Align cultural touch points which are formal and informal policies and procedures such as rewards, communication and training with health and well-being.
  • Monitor and celebrate success so that individual and group-level health and well-being goals are set and progress recognized.
  • Share the well-being vision, including how worklife and wellness is being defined, why it is important and how employees can participate in campus well-being initiatives.
  • Facilitate wellness program participation — along with teamwork, job autonomy, vacation time, appropriate use of sick leave, and access to work/life/health benefits — to help create an atmosphere where employees can thrive.
  • Visibly demonstrate and cultivate a workplace that values good health (i.e. exercise on lunch breaks, participate in wellness events, promote good nutrition, and keep team workloads and stress levels manageable).
  • Introduce and endorse well-being initiatives and programs through emails or postings.
  • Encourage staff to join email lists or social media of campus-units that house worklife and wellness offerings.
  • Recognize wellness achievements and efforts of teams and staff members.
  • Provide incidental flex-time within the workday (using lunch and break times or start/stop times) for employees to have the ability to attend campus-sponsored well-being resources.

Using Specific Tools: UC Davis Resources

Explore our campus resources (see Awareness above for unit links) to see how to integrate established well-being programming into your work environment.

Creating Worklife Integration >