Workplace Loneliness and the Importance of Community
A huge factor in the prevalence of loneliness at work is the lack of a nurtured and authentic community. As humans, we are organically communal. When the ability to form connections is absent it’s natural for us to feel isolated.
In the workplace, community and culture are influenced by company values. Often those values aren’t overly difficult to identify. The hard part is bringing them to life. Whereas values are defined, community is forever moving. It’s not a process. It’s an organic ecosystem that in many ways constantly evaluates the meaning of business values at a single point in time rather than adhering to them ongoing in an unwavering manner. In short, communal interactions are stress tests in cultural authenticity. They determine which values matter the most and challenge those that may not be overly robust or that employees can’t live by. A positive values-driven community breaks down silos. It laterally cuts across organizations taking politics and difficult divergent views out of the picture. It has the power to bond by removing obstacles through shared goals, interests and commitments. It galvanizes and helps individuals and the company as a whole to grow, and through all of this, it’s one of the most significant ways to prevent or reduce loneliness. Community through culture must, therefore, be fostered for the good of everyone.
7 Ways to Reduce Isolation In The Workplace
All is not lost. There are many approaches worth considering to manage the problem of loneliness in the workplace. Not every one is right for every company, but here are seven to consider.
According to Psychology Today 40% of people will experience the pain of loneliness during their lifetime. Despite its prevalence, the feeling of being alone or isolated is an often-misunderstood condition. Here are some facts.
Loneliness increases the likelihood of serious illness by repressing our immune systems. Depression, heart disease, strokes, panic attacks, low energy, and mental paralysis can all occur
Admission of loneliness is contagious. When a person opens up about their sense of negative isolation, 52% of his or her friends are more likely to subsequently admit they have the same challenge
It’s no longer a condition solely associated with the elderly. The average age of those suffering is declining fast
It poses a greater health risk than obesity
It’s worse for our health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day
Acute loneliness increases the likelihood of early death by 14%
When I was a kid, Friday nights meant pizza and Pepsi. Each week we would call the local pizzeria with the same order – one large mushroom and onion, one large pepperoni, and a bottle of Pepsi. This was delivered to our door by one of a few local teenagers, and we built relationships with our delivery guys as they visited each week. The routine was comforting.
Back then there wasn’t much competition for pizza delivery. But that was about all you could get delivered. We never really contemplated changing up our cuisine because the delivery universe was pretty much limited to pizza. If we wanted to change it up, that meant cooking at home or going to a restaurant.
Today the landscape my kids experience is quite different. The entire casual dining industry has been disrupted in ways many never anticipated. In-house dining restaurants, and even my old pizza place, are being challenged by a variety of options. Delivery services like UberEats and Bite have made it unnecessary to step inside a restaurant and have expanded our dining options. Cooking is different, too. Prepared meal delivery services like BlueApron and HelloFresh have made it convenient to prepare a home-cooked meal without the need to shop – it’s delivered fresh to your door just like the pizza of my youth. But, with an important twist: it’s part of a regular subscription service- no need to call anyone.
$16-billion dollar weather disasters have affected the US this year, from January – October. And the year isn’t over. We all knew someone, or personally experienced these events – from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria to the more recent wildfires in California. These traumatic events have taken a physical and emotional toll on many.
Living in Florida, hurricane season is one we plan for and anticipate every year. But always with a wait and see mentality. This year may be quiet, with little impact to our homes, or it may be the year where we experience the storm of the century. Having just watched the unexpected impact of hurricane Harvey to our neighbors across the Gulf, here in Florida, we watched the path of hurricane Irma with great anxiety. In the days before hurricane Irma was scheduled to make landfall, Governor Scott called for a State of Emergency. The skies were blue, social and professional events went on as scheduled, but the environment was charged. Water became scarce in the stores. Group chats permeated social media. We all accessed the local news channels and apps with more frequency as we sought the most up-to-date information on the direction of the storm, and the potential impact to different regions of the state of Florida. Who would be impacted, how badly, and when? Read More…
I once worked with a CEO of a successful startup. His company had been experiencing growing pains and customer-service mishaps that led to a decline in performance. During a leadership meeting designed to review recent irregular operations, he raised his hand and took ownership of the problem with a blunt assessment.
“The fish stinks at the head,” he said.
In other words, the organizational issues stemmed from leadership errors. These mistakes at the top of an organization can easily trickle down to create cultural issues throughout the team.
Companies undergo cultural assessments for a variety of reasons—and they’re not always because things have gone awry. A company might have a great culture that it wants to preserve during a growth phase. Or it might want to evolve the company’s culture to keep pace with a leadership change, market shift or relocation.
Other times, companies need to know why something unexpected has happened. Leaders might be trying to address increased turnover, decreased market share, a drop in productivity or something as major as ethical violations. Unfortunately, leaders don’t always understand what the aforementioned CEO identified: Organizational issues often go much deeper than culture. Read More…
No offense to your MBA, but you learned everything you need to know about being an executive in kindergarten. Business schools provide the strategies necessary to run companies, but true leadership comes down to understanding people.
Think back to your first day of kindergarten. Unless you were a wildly outgoing 5-year-old, you probably felt shy and scared. What if I don’t make any friends? What if the schoolwork is hard? What if I miss my mom? These anxieties aren’t all that different from those experienced by business leaders (aside from the mom part). The fix is the same as it was back then: Be brave. Walk into the room, do your best, and work to build new connections.
I’ve worked with numerous intelligent, capable executives who have years of relevant experience. They often suffer from insecurities that we all face at some point in our lives. One of the more common issues is imposter syndrome, which causes otherwise qualified leaders to struggle with the fear of being “found out.” This can cause people to question their every action and isolate themselves from colleagues.
Leaders who struggle with feelings of inadequacy are reluctant to confide in their peers. They stuff their feelings and eventually end up living in a lonely leadership fishbowl. Given that solitary leaders are less effective than their more sociable peers, their fears of falling short often come true.
Sharing your uncertainties is unbelievably liberating; it also humanizes you and lets your team know you care. Escape the leadership fishbowl by embracing your vulnerability.
Elon Musk acts like space is the next frontier, but business pioneers know true innovation is happening on terra firma. Instead of exploring the cosmos, business leaders are experimenting with office dynamics. The 21st-century workplace is characterized by perpetual changes and increasingly unconventional setups.
Our ancestors would have trouble recognizing our employee-centered office spaces and working arrangements. Telecommuting has become commonplace for many small and large organizations, and most companies have a global focus — internationally-based employees, vendors, and clients are par for the course. Thankfully, communication is instantaneous with technology such as email, real-time messaging, virtual meetings, and synchronous conference calls.
Not long ago, promotions went to employees with the most technical expertise. Companies bent over backward to gain specialized industry knowledge, so it made sense to promote based on its merit. But the times, as they say, are a-changin’. At a certain point in history, technical ingenuity began to take a back seat to interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. In fact, a recent study by Harris Poll found that 77 percent of employers believe these “soft skills” are as important as talents directly related to specific job functions.
I witnessed this shift while working with one female executive who rose through the ranks to a senior position based on her technical prowess. Those skills opened numerous doors on her path to leadership, but she suddenly experienced a bit of a disconnect.
This new role put her in charge of a team, and her instincts took over when team members presented solutions to problems. She would fall back on her years of experience to provide better answers. This gradually caused employees to rely on her whenever they had problems instead of trying to solve them on their own. She continued to “show them the way” but soon faced resistance and plummeting morale — to the point that human resources received negative comments about her leadership style.
She had built her career on technical smarts, but her performance measure no longer relied on those abilities. Success was now achieved by her ability to build relationships, develop employees, and motivate a high-performing team.
In other words, she lacked what most modern companies crave: emotional intelligence.
While power transitions can be volatile, a new leader can succeed by using strategies to keep everyone on the same page.
President Donald Trump’s transition to the White House has been a fascinating study in leadership turf battles. The businessman-turned-politician has kept several advisors close rather than embrace a traditional hierarchy.
The result – internal conflict among prominent figures vying for influence – isn’t exclusive to politics. When an agency we were advising was seeking a new leader, it tapped an internal executive for the interim but ultimately chose an external candidate. Unfortunately, he immediately faced overwhelming distrust and hostility.
As any business expands — either domestically or internationally — it can be a challenge to maintain a consistent company culture. Communication might suddenly need to bridge time zones, and messages will need to stay consistent despite language or cultural barriers. An expansion can affect organizational design and the centralization of resources, potentially making employees feel detached.