The current working context has created a great deal of uncertainty in the workplace. Many managers report that the current remote working has led to several advantages including; less commuting time, more efficiency in meetings, and time for family and hobbies. However, at the same time, there is an increase in feelings of loneliness and isolation. 68% of managers complain that they are cut off from the informal conversations in the workplace and it is much more difficult to seek advice or ask for help. Vasel* argued that lonely employees have lower job performance, little engagement with the company’s vision and they are less approachable to other employees.
Professor Barsade from Wharton Business School claimed that if we do not pay attention to loneliness, these behaviors are mimicked across the organization and can spread like a virus*. In the book ‘Connect – Resolve conflict, improve communication and strengthen relationships’ recently published by FT/Pearson, Tami Lubitsh and I provide five tips to increase connectivity and avoid isolation, and burn out.
Five things you can do to increase communication and avoid isolation, and burn out:
1- Self–awareness of your connector style:
Personal leadership behaviors and presence impact your peers and direct reports as well as other external key stakeholders. An example is if you are a manager who is focussed on getting things done, it’s important especially during these uncertain times, to give yourself space and time to step back and think about a wide range of alternatives for a more creative solution. If you are a manager that prefers harmony, it may be challenging for you to address the poor performance of conflict between colleagues. To improve your effectiveness, you will have to learn how to conduct difficult conversations with others and increase your personal skills in addressing conflict.
Connect has an on-line questionnaire that can help you identify your personal connector style and implications for your communication and relationships at work.
2- Take ownership and control over the quality of your relationships with others:
There are several ways to both own and improve your connectivity to others. You can create a social network/stakeholders map and consider which relationships require more investment of your time and resources. You can book time in your diary for virtual coffees or face to face meetings with current key stakeholders as well as new prospects. It’s very important to challenge yourself to connect with people who are outside your immediate network and have different styles and perspectives to yourself. Our advice is to be bold and curious when you reach out to them. If you are persistent and willing to learn from your actions, over time, you will improve your confidence to connect with others and open up new exciting opportunities for yourself and others.
3- Maintain positive self-esteem:
Times of uncertainty can create feelings of anxiety and fears around all aspects of our confidence at work. As we are becoming more socially distant from colleagues, we may feel that our views are not important during this period. We may be in a context where we are in contact with our line manager via email/zoom only which can make us feel less valuable to the organization. Furthermore, we may assume that someone who is important to our work does not want to engage with us and be worried about initiating contact. Kipling said “of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears. Therefore, it’s important to acknowledge personal fears, open a dialogue with them inviting them in, trying to determine their origin and validity. This exercise involves going the extra mile and takes practice, but it is worthwhile.
4- Ensure you validate the other person:
Oprah Winfrey shared the most important lessons she learned after talking to nearly 30,000 guests. All the people she talked to had one thing in common: they wanted to be validated. In her words: “Every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?’” The above is particularly true during these stressful times. You can try and use phrases such as; ‘I would like to hear from more on why it is important to you?’ ‘Why are you interested/energized by…?‘
5- Practice humility and show concern to others:
Be aware that during uneasy times, people around you may be anxious times for people around you. Many people have financial worries about the future and/or concerns about the health and wellbeing of others in their immediate environment. Zak published a study of Google employees which showed that managers who expressed interest and concern in other team members, outperformed their colleagues in both the quality and quantity of their communication and performance work*.
Connect – Resolve conflict, improve communication, and strengthen relationships, recently published by FT/Pearson.
Brown, B (2018) Dare to Lead. Random House – New York.
Vasel K. (2018) CNN research on loneliness at the workplace. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/12/05/success/workplace-loneliness/index.html
Zak P. J. (2017) The Neuroscience of Trust. Harvard Business Review.