Lately I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about motivation, connection, and communication and specifically motivating employees. It’s almost a holy grail of business lately.
Employee engagement surveys are rife in the business world. The good news is that we, business in general, have clued in to the fact that it’s the work that our employees produce that makes or breaks a company.
The other side is that we are often still not really sure of what to do with the data from employee surveys, especially as it relates to resolving stated problems with how employees feel they’re being treated. Are their connections and communication with their work and other people positive? This is the link back to employee motivation.
Connection and Communication Brain Research
Some fascinating research is being done lately into what is going on in our brains when we are at work and are communicating and collaborating with others. One methodology being used lately is fMRI scans to track brain activity under different interpersonal situations. Matt Lieberman, a neuroscientist at UCLA, describes in his new book Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect that our brains are so wired to social interactions that a social/emotional hurt is understood by our brains in the same way and with a similar magnitude as physical hurt. It makes the saying that “my heart hurts” take on new meaning. We physically feel our emotional hurt – that comes from our social relationships. This also brings new meaning to the old saying “It’s not personal, it’s only business.” When it comes to connection and communication, it’s actually very personal.
The good news is that we can work with this. It doesn’t cost anything to be more considerate, to be kinder to people. And, the irony is that it doesn’t need to be that you’re any more ‘soft’ in the business sense. It’s not about toughening people up to be able to withstand a little criticism, it’s about sometimes biting your tongue before you speak and make as sure as you can that what you are saying is not offensive, degrading, or otherwise humiliating.
Raising Employee Motivation
When employees speak about being treated better, take a look around and see how respectful your company’s culture is, and what you, as a individual at any level of the organization can do to make at least the area around you, more respectful and more supportive of individuals.
A respectful, considerate workplace goes a long way to helping employees feel valued. A further strategy is to help people feel connected at work. Our brains being focused on social interactions should be good for teamwork. And it is. The thing is, in teams we often parcel off tasks for different team members to go off and do, individually.
Researchers have found just using the word ‘together’ in context of the work the team is doing, or the individual tasks everyone has to do, can reinforce the sense of togetherness, relatedness, ‘we-ness’ that is so important to our well-being – physically and emotionally.
In my follow up article, I’ll go into options how we can change our perception of positive connection and communication in the business world, without hurting our reputations.