Ritch Hochstetler | March 28, 2022

Recent survey results in the Harvard Business Review state:
• 65% of people don’t feel any sense of community at work
• 76% reported difficulty making connections with teammates
• Over 40% feel physically or emotionally isolated in the workplace

The Pandemic of Loneliness

Though we may be through the worst of the pandemic, the ensuing “hangover” continues to wreak havoc on our teams and workplace cultures. Over 50% of educators and youth workers are leaving the field earlier than they had planned. The new sickness seems to be a deadly variant which could be called the pandemic of loneliness, and its impact includes; lower job satisfaction, more frequent job switching, and a higher likelihood of resignation in the next 6 months. Further studies show that loneliness at work reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making.

From her book, Mastering Community: The Surprising Ways Coming Together Moves Us from Surviving to Thriving, Christine Porath defines community as “a group of individuals who share a mutual concern for one another’s welfare.” The distinguishing factor is caring for one another. Her research highlights our need for affiliation or connection as one of our three most fundamental needs, along with autonomy and competence.

Rebuilding Team Connection

If connection with co-workers is a vital component of a thriving workplace culture, and we’ve lost the sense of community needed to sustain it, then what can be done to rebuild it? Recognizing that there’s no easy or quick fix, there are three things we can start doing today that can move us in the direction of re-building community and a culture that gives it room to grow.

Establish a Baseline of Radical Candor

First, it requires establishing a baseline of radical candor. Building blocks of radical candor include: soliciting honest feedback, offering specific praise, and giving criticism helpfully and kindfully. Radical candor creates structures in which truth can be spoken to power. A framework in which workers can take risks and pursue change and opportunity without fear of failure or retribution. Positive, honest, caring feedback is like oxygen that allows authentic relationships to breathe, while toxic feedback breaks down community and infects culture negatively. The essence of radical candor is caring about others enough to say the things they need to hear, although it may upset them. Communities that practice radical candor allow people to deliver tough messages without fear. This leads to lowered inhibition and creates a safe space for people to be vulnerable.

Commit to Resourcefulness

Second, moving in the direction of re-building a positive and healthy culture requires leadership and team dynamics that are committed to resourcefulness. Resilient teams rebound from setbacks and welcome new challenges. They devote their energy to solutions and remain focused on outcomes regardless of external circumstances. How do they do this? Through resourcefulness. Leaders and teams who are resourceful pull together when faced with problems and challenges. They face “the storm” of challenges or intractable problems out there from the shelter of each other. They leverage the strengths, talents, and unique personality characteristics of each person by asking for and offering support and help needed to get the job done. Like a finely-tuned sports team, they have cemented the mentality of “next player up” to step into whatever role is needed to accomplish the goal.

Embrace a Concious Culture of Empathy and Caring

Third, organizations must embrace a conscious culture of empathy and caring. Many employees are feeling tired, overwhelmed or jaded, The reality is that there is often a gap between leadership’s perception of the culture and how the employees experience it. This gap negatively impacts morale, and decreases the employee’s ownership. To embrace a conscious culture that is aware and accountable to what’s working, what’s not and how the organization can improve, means asking people how they are experiencing the workplace. Leaders need to listen to this feedback with the intent to understand first, instead of getting defensive or rushing in to try and fix it. At the end of the day, it’s vital for leaders who are committed to building a conscious culture of empathy and caring to have a thick skin and a soft heart.

In the words of Christine Porath, “If you want to unlock a community’s potential, create a safe space for everyone where they all feel connected to each other and supportive of one another. People desperately want to feel a sense of belonging, membership in a united team that goes through challenges and hardships together.” She goes on to say that just because you’re not leading an organization doesn’t mean you can’t make it better for everyone, including yourself. Your kindness, consideration, and respect will have a ripple effect, creating a positive dynamic among your colleagues. Through small actions you can strengthen your community and lift up your organization.

Rewards of a Healthy Workplace Culture

We are living in an era that has been labeled as “the great resignation.” We all feel the impact on some level, and the stakes are high. The important thing to hold onto is that the situation isn’t hopeless. Our mindset, our actions, our commitment to re-building the workplace cultures we inhabit can have a profound impact.

The impact of feeling a sense of community at work includes:
• 74% of people felt more engaged
• 81% said they were more likely to stay with the company
• 83% reported higher thriving and an internal sense of being energized, alive, and growing

Establishing a baseline of radical candor, commitment to resourcefulness, and the embrace of a conscious culture of empathy and caring are practical action steps we can all take that move us in the direction of re-building positive team culture. It’s time that we take stock of the role we can play, and take personal responsibility to be positive change agents within our teams and in our organizations.

 

Ritch Hochstetler, Chief Ideation Trailblazer at ULEAD