Lonely at work? Or do you create loneliness?
We often talk about teamwork, but do we talk about loneliness and how we can generate it at work, which can cause isolation, a lack of teamwork and a ‘them and us’ culture?
Our clients consistently report ‘relationship with peer group’ as one of their lowest areas of effectiveness when they begin working with Courageous Success. What is causing this and what are the impacts for teams and business culture?
Experience tells us, it’s not just peer group, it appears that closeness to those we manage or lead is also a stretch, with over 95% of us wanting to be better at building these relationships. From our observations, many managers and leaders have a need to be formal and often have rampant control strategies. Is it perceived lack of time that causes this?
I haven’t got time as a manager or leader, so I:
- Lift my status – I must be seen as the authority.
- Do it all myself – it’s quicker.
These behaviours reduce collaboration and connection between teams and can make individuals feel out of the loop, isolated and lonely at work.
The easy answer is more time, isn’t it always? But what is the price of not making time?
California State University and the Wharton School of Business surveyed 672 workers and concluded that loneliness at work has a “significant influence on employee work performance, both in direct tasks as well as effectiveness”.
In August 2014 Relate released a study suggesting that 42% of people do not have a friend at work. The same study found that “we’re almost as likely to have daily contact with our colleagues (62%) as we have with our children (64%)”. Gallup found in their Q12 survey, that having a friend at work has a very strong correlation with employee engagement.
So, togetherness is important and it affects our brains and therefore our work.
Experts in the psychology and neuroscience of loneliness, Stephanie & John Cacioppo, from the University of Chicago, found that lonely people’s brains differ from those of non-lonely people. Lonely brains are more alert to threats and the possibility of danger from strangers with the brain becoming more active in social situations. At Courageous Success we know that this makes those loneliest amongst us more defensive and more likely to pull back and retreat, a self-perpetuating cycle. Throw in the odd dismissive comment, bitchy look or moment of reflective silence translated as judgement and a spin of self-harassment, doubt, and frustration can ensue. We try to hide it, but it will often be seen in our inability to control our emotional response.
The ‘should’s’ of work tell us that we should all be brilliant team players – but the majority of us actually aren’t – controversial but true! So, what to do about it?
Top tips to reduce loneliness at work:
- Ask for help at least once a day. This may be an opinion, a prompt or an idea, but it’s a beginning.
- Give your help to others. We are all busy, make time to spend 10 minutes helping another.
- Book team time. You don’t have to climb a mountain or build a raft (a waste of time), but simply being together, working, planning and focusing on your relationships together will bring you closer as a team.
- Talk and listen. Step forward and lift your consciousness and level of interaction.
- Make friends at work. Remembering that our colleagues are funny and real people, rather than just roles, humanises the workplace.
- Take responsibility for your loneliness or your generation of it, and take action to make changes.