Dear CEO, have you ever felt the need to choose between making a living and living a meaningful life?
• Have you ever felt inauthentic? Like there’s a gap between what you’re feeling and what you’re doing?
• Have you ever felt torn between earning a living and living a meaningful life?
• Have you ever felt the pressure to focus on quarterly shareholder returns rather than what is right for everyone?
A world beset with challenges on the one hand. On the other a workforce that is ‘Quiet Quitting’ joining ‘The Great Resignation’ or just ‘Lying Flat’, all signs of deep disengagement with work. Work might also be killing us. Even before the pandemic, a Stanford study showed high prevalence of stress, which in turn has been found to correlate with chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.Why is work, where we spend almost a third of our adult lives, not making us happy? Could it be that we are actually meaning seeking creatures and work done to make some random individuals rich as opposed to addressing some of the challenges the world faces is no longer engaging enough?
Yes the personal matters- how I am growing within my company or will grow, how much I am earning and can earn, am I learning enough, am I recognised for my efforts and am I empowered to perform my best, are all questions individuals are asking about their jobs. Over and above answering these questions for individuals, however, leaders today need to provide a context to the work individuals are doing
Neuroscience or how people think may hold some answers for leaders on how to retain and engage at a team level.
Dr.Paul Zak of the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley University has done studies that show that when one is intentionally trusted, even by a stranger, the brain produces Oxytocin. Oxytocin, often termed as the ‘love hormone’ can be responsible for relationship building and empathy in the workplace. Studies show that Oxytocinimproves our ability to understand others’ emotions. The increase in empathy thanks to Oxytocin allows people to quickly form teams and work together effectively. High levels of Oxytocin can enable people to work harder to help the group achieve its goals. Lab studies show that when trust between team members is high, Oxytocin flows. As a result work can feel less like work, and more like doing interesting things with friends.
Employees in high-trust organizationssuffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, which can fuel stronger performance. Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report74% less stress, 106% more energy at work,50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement,29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout. These results show that trust is a significant factor and leaders need to recognise the importance of trust in building teams and businesses. Studies show that high-trust organisations are more likely to perform better when compared to low-trust counterparts. For example, a selection of India’s Best Workplaces all of which had high-trust cultures, outperformed India stock market indices by a factor of nearly four during a five-year (2009-2013) study. And, Danish Best Workplaces experienced roughly 1/3 the turnover of Danish companies overall (9% compared to 25%), positioning them for higher success against their competitors.
High Trust and High Purpose
Dr. Zak’s work has also showed that in addition to trust, teams needed a second component to perform at the highest levels: knowing that their work matters or a sense of meaning about their work. He calls this an organization’s transcendent purpose—or just “Purpose” for short.
Multiple studies have shown that working with purpose is also a potent Oxytocin stimulus. When a team understands a company’s purpose, a second Oxytocin stimulus arises because most people value helping others. According to Dr. Paul Zak, “..teams that had both high trust and high purpose blew away the competition”
“..teams that had both high trust and high purpose blew away the competition”
―Dr. Paul Zak
Its time for The Great Re-invention(with Oxytocin focused action) for leaders
The experience of the workplace changed overnight due to the pandemic for the average employee. Remote and hybrid working made it difficult to feel connected to colleagues, to manage work-life boundaries. It has increased the risk of burnout, created different work-life balance requirements, and made the need for more meaningful work, clearer.
Employees have re-looked at their lives, their priorities and their work and what it does for them financially and emotionally, during the pandemic. Those who were not satisfied with what they saw are making changes. Many individuals have now connected with their desire and ability to strive for change, to make it all work for them, and are moving with renewed impetus.
This moment in time is a chance for companies to do things differently too, to re-invent and relook their business models by adding a social agenda that would motivate and galvanise the troops. Banding together as an organisation to address a major social issue would also enable companies to address the 87% of the workforce who are disengaged at work- nothing like a cause to rally the troops in order to address an issue.
Many of us want to do something to fix things around us; knowing that our work matters would give our work meaning. Consciously creating and managing trust and giving meaning to the work employees are doing in the workplace while managing productivity is what leaders now need to focus on to stem the attrition. Re-invention by focusing on Oxytocin producing actions- focusing on trust and purpose, along with profit may be the answer to build teams that ‘love’ what they do. That would be a win-win-win for team members, company shareholders and society.
You can continue reading the 3 article in this series by clicking here.