Unhappiness in teams, just like joy and sadness, is contagious. In fact, research has proven that our emotions are contagious within seven minutes. This means that just one unhappy employee can have a negative impact on a team or organisation in only seven minutes.
While we have all probably experienced the impact of unhappiness in teams, there is a great need for organisations to cultivate a more positive workplace culture which will improve the well-being of employees. Happiness is becoming the new measure of job satisfaction; in fact, happiness at work has become so important to people that it’s one of the primary reasons why people choose to either leave or stay in their job.
In this article, we will show why unhappiness is an important indicator for your team’s performance, how to notice the signs of unhappiness, and what to do to combat the spread of unhappiness in your organisation.
Ten Signs of Unhappiness in Your Team
As we have mentioned in previous articles, there is extensive research proving the effect happy employees have on organisations. However, there is also a lot of information showing the impact and substantial costs that unhappy employees can have on the organisation and its bottom line.
Becoming aware of the warning signs of unhappiness in your team is a good starting point. This requires keeping your finger on the pulse of the team, noticing toxic or negative behaviours before they spread.
Ten Warning Signs of Unhappiness in Your Team are:
- Reduced organisational commitment
- Poor time management – leaving early and arriving late
- High staff turnover
- Low levels of accountability
- Increased micromanaging
- Low levels of volunteerism and organisational citizenship
- Poor engagement, productivity, and performance
- Limited problem-solving and innovation ability
- Poor workplace relationships
- Increased stress, burn-out, and absenteeism
Based on these findings – which is by no means an exhaustive list – it becomes apparent even to the most traditional of leaders, that happiness at work is not just a nice-to-have, but is in fact vital for the economic viability of a business and the sustainable productivity of its workforce.
Five Factors that Cause Unhappiness in Teams, and How to Combat Them
While unhappiness in teams is more prevalent than we would like it to be, research is being done to understand its causes and influences, and how we can increase happiness at work.
4Seeds is passionate about this illuminating and evolving research into Positive Psychology and positive organisations. We strive to build happy cultures for organisations which in turn cultivates an engaged, productive, and committed workforce, delivering a more sustainable positive impact on society. This is our philosophy.
Here are the five key factors which cause unhappiness in teams, and what we are doing to combat them.
1) Unsupportive Management
Research has shown that poor leadership is the predominant reason why people leave their jobs. While this may be a hard pill to swallow, it is fact. Happiness levels in organisations need to start at the top!
Our Meaningful Leadership Development Programme is designed to equip new and experienced leaders with the soft skills and personal mastery needed to lead others effectively. At 4Seeds we believe that with a combination of self-awareness, strong soft skills, and the passion to make a meaningful impact, any leader can create a positive culture at work. Read more about the Meaningful Leadership Development Programme.
2) Lack of Tools and Research to Complete the Job
Job performance and productivity require each individual to have clarity on their role and the resources (tangible and intangible) to meet the job demands competently. If one does not have the resources (time, equipment, knowledge, supervision, or confidence) to achieve the outcomes of their job, they can quickly become disinterested, disengaged and depressed. Achievement is one of the fundamental pillars of happiness, so organisations need to provide the necessary resources for each individual to fulfil their role effectively.
4Seeds specialises in employee engagement. From organisation-wide assessments to bespoke interventions, we are the perfect learning and development partner to assist you to build and sustain the resources and human capacities needed for your teams to move from unhappy to engaged. Read more about our service offerings.
3) Little Opportunity for Professional Growth
As we all know, growth and development are invaluable to our motivation at work. Why should we work if we don’t know where it will lead? Learning and development are fundamental to every organisation that wants to train and maintain its staff.
4Seeds offers workshops and trainings which serve to build the skills needed to survive and thrive in the modern workplace. From resilience and stamina, to strengths-based work efficacy, we have 12 training modules which can be tailor-made to suit your employees’ learning and development needs. Read more about our Positive Team Building Interventions.
4. Poor Internal Processes and Systems
As W. Edwards Deming (American engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant) so aptly put it “eighty-five percent of the reasons for failure are deficiencies in the systems and process rather than the employee. The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering individuals to do better.”
Effectively, systems and processes within an organisation take strategy, innovation, foresight, and a willingness to learn and adapt along the way. Ours is to be an objective, external partner to your strategic development. We have expertise in corporate governance, systems thinking, industrial psychology, and leadership, and can provide a fresh perspective to take your company into the future. To learn more about this offering, please get in touch with us at email@example.com
5. Dissatisfaction with Colleagues
Team dynamics and conflicts are inevitable. Without the skills and insight to respect diversity and share frustrations, collaborate on ideas and build trust, any team is just waiting for unhappiness to strike. Positive co-worker relationships are considered one of the top five reasons why people stay at their jobs. So, creating positive, respectful and collaborative working relationships is vital to the productivity and happiness of each respective individual involved.
At 4Seeds we are experts in building human capital and positive relationships. Our Positive Team Building packages provide a choice of 12 topics. Each one of these topics will upskill the individuals on your team while cultivating a positive, cohesive working culture. The workshops can be done individually or grouped together into a more integrated team-building strategy. Read more about our Positive Team Building Workshops.
Unhappiness in teams can no longer be an afterthought. If future leaders begin building happiness into their strategy for the years to come, we are more likely to create a stable, lucrative, empowering, and happy economy.
4Seeds is dedicated to this mission and have made it our core purpose to build happier organisations in South Africa. We would love to hear from you and assist your organisation to go from unhappy to satisfied, from unfulfilled to engaged, and from individual surviving to collective thriving.
Get in touch with us to learn more about our services and how we can help you.
Despite research showing the significant link between employee happiness and productivity in the workplace, it seems that very little effort is being made by organisations to instil a happy and positive working environment. Perhaps the idea of focusing on employee well-being or happiness feels like a soft and fuzzy thing which is leaders believe is the employee’s duty to manage. Either that or they think that it’s a modern fad that will hopefully soon pass. The reality is that employee happiness and well-being is here to stay and its voice will become louder and louder in years to come. If they haven’t done so already, employee well-being and happiness are going to become strategic agenda items that will need to be taken serious by board members, and senior and executive leaders.
People spend a lot of their time at work, and have the right to be happy and in a positive vibrant working environment that brings out the best in them. Also, happy employees are statistically known to be more productive, engaged, and motivated, which has a direct impact on an organisation’s bottom line. So, it’s a win-win situation for the individual and the organisation. But we struggle to make the mind shift to instil this positive concept. Why do you think this is the case?
Four key reasons spring to mind: (1) organisations are stuck in their comfort zones, and lack the know-how to roll out this cultural change process. (2) they lack the clarity on how the change will be tangibly measured. (3) they don’t have the budget set aside to engage in this philosophy. (4) they don’t have the time to focus on implementing and training people. Like the saying goes: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
I’m going to address the second point immediately because we can tangibly and easily measure employee happiness and well-being through things such as job satisfaction, volunteering, career development, talent retention, minimal absenteeism, low employee turnover, culture fit, motivation, employee engagement, and many more. The list is endless. On second thoughts, perhaps the terms happiness and well-being are causing confusion, because we’re not clear on what they mean.
What is Happiness?
Happiness is a construct most of us have experienced in some parts of our lives, and most people are mildly happy for the majority of their life span. Philosophers and social humanistic researchers have defined the term happiness in many ways so that not one agreed definition exists. The reason for the disagreement lies in the fact that happiness has two components to it. We speak of hedonic and eudamonic happiness. Hedonic happiness is the happiness most people are familiar with, which is to experience pleasant emotions and situations. We pursue positive events and activities to forego negative experiences, hence pleasure over pain is the motto. Eudamonic happiness is more intense, and requires personal commitment. It is engaging in activities in which one finds meaning, pursues growth and self-actualisation, and is virtuous by being naturally and morally right. Hedonic happiness focuses on the individual and has a selfish component to it, whereas eudamonic happiness is focused on the collective social well-being and is performed for the higher good of society. For organisations, there is a balancing act because both forms of happiness need to be integrated into the workplace. Events such as monthly pizza lunches will be fleeting and will tick the box of hedonic happiness because they disburse positive emotions and experiences, but aren’t long-lasting so we need to do them more often.
How to Kick-Start Happiness
To assist you to introduce the concept of happiness in the organisation, I’m going to share five practical steps to kick-start your process.
Step 1: Design a bespoke happiness survey for your organisation and then distribute it to all employees electronically
Honestly, this is more difficult than it sounds because you’ll want to ensure that you’re asking relevant happiness questions that will give you a true indication of how happy people are at work. Perhaps you’ll even bundle questions into sub-categories that you can use as measurement tools – things like job satisfaction, workplace trust, social relationships, working environment, safety, job crafting, etc. You need to set a substantial amount of time aside to establish what information you want to collect from your staff. Phrase questions in a simple and open-ended manner so that everybody, regardless of their position in the organisation, can effortlessly answer them. Have a look at our free happiness at work assessment to inspire you:
Step 2: Brief people about the happiness survey
If you want to get a significant amount of people participating in your happiness at work survey, you’ll need to brief people accordingly. Writing one email is not going to be enough for people to willingly spend time on the survey. Leaders will have to verbally communicate why the organisation is doing the survey, what the intention behind it is, what happens with the results, who sees them, what type of feedback they’ll get, as well as when they will receive it. The survey has to guarantee confidentially and be anonymous if you want truthful answers.
Step 3: Create readiness through positive language
You may not notice, but most language used in an organisation, regardless of whether it is written or spoken, is negative and has a deficit tone to it. Start by rephrasing words like “problems” with “challenges” or “opportunities”. Speak of “strengths” instead of “weaknesses”. Break the traditional corporate lingo, and be a bit more light-hearted and positive in your terminology. Bring in simple human appreciation concepts of being kind, considerate, and caring towards one another. Be mindful that what you hear consciously and subconsciously impacts on your performance, mindset, and attitude.
Step 4: Overcome resistance
Not everybody is going to be excited about this new concept. Perhaps your organisation has tried something like this before and you weren’t successful. People will remember that. Maybe they’re scared of the changes because they’re not sure how it will impact either them personally or their work. To reduce resistance, include the people affected by the change from the outset. Communicate often, answer their questions, and address their concerns. Listen to them and make an effort to understand where their fear is coming from.
Step 5: Do it in bite-sized chunks
It’s totally common that once you’ve assessed the data from the survey, analysed it, and interpreted it, you’ll be ready to jump into action. You’re going to have lots of things that you want to change immediately, but you need to be mindful of going slowly. Take a step back and find two or three activities that you can work on. Choose something that will get quick results, something a little bit more medium term, like in four to six months’ time, and then something that will take a full twelve months. Focus on three things only. Once you’ve accomplished one goal satisfactorily, give feedback to the entire organisation, and then choose a new thing on your list.
Making Happiness Permanent
Instilling a positive and happy culture in your organisation takes time and continuous practice. If you want to make this an effective and permanent part of the organisation’s culture, you’ll need a dedicated person to focus on this full time. Depending on the size of the organisation it may be part of the HR department’s role, but in a larger organisation you’re likely to employ an internal happiness officer or use an external consultant. Should you feel overwhelmed with the task of implementing a happy work culture in your organisation, please speak to one of our consultants for a free one-hour consultation.
Modern organisations are undergoing continuous change, with expectations from consumers as well as employees increasing dramatically as our economy becomes more innovative, fast-paced, and demanding.
We’ve already begun the technological revolution, and just like the Industrial Revolution, we’re creating machines which are becoming more and more intelligent, to the point that they’re able to replace many of our physical and cognitive functions. We’re becoming even more reliant on technology to minimise inconveniences, reduce human error, and maximise our production and processing potential. While this is an incredible feat of human innovation which should be celebrated and revered, it’s becoming necessary to redefine the role of humanity in this technological future.
As computers become even more intelligent, we need to be asking what humans can bring to the table to ensure that we don’t become redundant in the face of our own inventions. While you’re reading this, there are computers which are self-learning and able to adjust, analyse, and improve their functionality without human intervention. While this is happening, we have to ask ourselves what role we want to be playing in this future we’re creating. Douglas Rushkoff, the author of Team Human, is bringing awareness to this topic. In his TED talk he says, “It’s not about rejecting the digital or rejecting the technological. It’s a matter of retrieving the values that we’re in danger of leaving behind and then embedding them into the future”.
There’s a growing body of research that shows that while technology is providing us with more convenience, greater global connections, and more efficiency, the impact of social media, for example, is detrimental to our self-esteem, which in turn boosts our depression and anxiety levels. Navigation apps reduce our brain’s ability to solve problems, orientate, and memorise.
So, what values do you think make us inherently human? Ethics, morality, scenario-planning, intuition, empathy, collaboration? And how can we harness our human capacities, so we’re able to not only cope with but engage and positively influence a world filled with technological shortcuts?
The answer is in psychological upskilling. We need to develop psychological resources to not only cope with our current conditions but to grow our innate human potential, so we’re able to stay on track with our technological advancements.
As the leaders of today’s organisations, we need to be aware of this gap and focus on the humanity behind our work. We need to be anchoring our values, discussing and devising ethical protocols and how to manage diversity and inclusion, collaborating and co-operating, as well as helping our organisations to keep connected to the meaning, purpose, and humanity of its existence, now more than ever.
At 4Seeds we are acutely aware of the importance of humanity in the modern workplace. We have made it our mission to support organisations to bridge the gap between the dehumanising digital world, and the meaningful and positive roles we play at work, which keep us motivated, productive and committed. We know that through empowering leaders, managers and employees with the psychological skills of resilience, strengths-based job crafting, value-driven team goal setting, and self-awareness, we can help you and your organisation play a vital role in the progress of humanity in the digital future.
Join us for our next Meaningful Leadership Development Programme which is taking place in Johannesburg on 13th and 14th August 2019.
Learn more about the course and book your seat or drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
South Africa has seen its fair share of unethical leadership in recent years, with the political and economic infrastructure being manipulated and managed for the benefit of a few. However, even though we know that this behaviour is unethical, the business world remains a complicated place with many grey areas which regularly test our moral compass.
Leaders, as the responsible people in the organisation, are often seen to be the ethical navigators and feel responsible for the misdemeanours or transgressions of others. Despite our best efforts, we cannot change the behaviour and motivation of others. However, without clarification of the expectations of the organisation, we cannot expect people to always know whether they are doing the right thing.
This does, unfortunately, mean that leaders have a role to play in ensuring that people remain within the moral conditions laid out by the organisation, and can be held accountable if these conditions are not in place.
In this article, we outline five conditions that you can apply to ensure that you are acting as an ethical leader. We hope to offer you some guidance which can protect you and your organisation from the unintended consequences of unethical behaviour.
Five Ways Your Workplace Can Make You an Ethical Leader
Codes of Conduct and Best Practice guidelines
Putting into a place a set of rules and regulations which stipulate the nature of managing unethical, illegal or morally challenging situations in the workplace, is a vital step for your organisation. When we don’t know what is expected of us, it’s easy for situations to unravel and ethics can become an emotional area to solve after the fact. Deciding on the policies which work for the team as well as unpacking the ethical challenges of your industry, the best practice guidelines for managing them, and how to regulate your organisation’s daily work, is a great way to collaborate on governance for which everyone has agreed to and is then responsible for upholding.
Training on ethics and company culture
Having the ability to make ethical decisions is not a given skill. Educating your employees will empower them to make informed decisions about their actions, and is essential to ensure that your staff are able to make ethical decisions. Providing regular training and seminars is one method, and can include the following:
- Updates on the latest best practice guidelines
- Updates on national and international industry rules and regulations
- Instilling commitment for your corporate values
- Providing guidance through challenging situations
- Encouraging them to speak up about mistakes and uncomfortable ethical behaviours where the team can discuss and learn from their mistakes or the challenges of others.
One of the key behaviours of ethical leadership is consistency and fairness. If only certain policies are respected, individuals are dealt with in disparaging ways, or consequences for unethical behaviours are inconsistently punished – then your organisation is in trouble. People notice when they are not managed fairly, and inconsistency can quickly deteriorate the trust, collaborative spirit, and psychological safety of people at work. Being consistent in what is regulated and how it is fairly implemented is key to ensuring that your reputation and codes of conduct are upheld inside and outside of the workplace.
Do what you say, and admit when you don’t. Being an ethical leader means being a role model for best practice. This requires you to know your core values and to behave them. As an example, it is one thing to say that you want everyone to be punctual but you are late for meetings, or that you respect your employees’ health but then send them tasks when they are on sick leave, or that you value work-life balance but you yourself always work overtime. Integrity is a highly necessary part of ethical leadership because, without it, your team will inevitably see you as false and will lose trust and respect for you. In order to be an ethical organisation, you as the leader have to be willing to follow the same protocols of behaviour that you set out for your staff.
Check your motivations
While there are many definitions of leadership, there is one concept that underpins them all. The idea of being responsible for something greater than oneself, and while there have been many tyrannical leaders in history, the true meaning of a leader is one who is not motivated by self-advancement but rather by the progress of the team and company as a whole. If you want to be an ethical leader you need to become aware of your motivations and be vigilant with yourself. Make sure that you know who you are and how your behaviours impact those around you. If you are making decisions which drive your own success or financial gain, you will not only lose the commitment of your staff, but you are setting an example that individual gain is more valuable than collective success.
As you can see, ethical leadership is as much about your own behaviour and intentions as it is about setting up clear and consistent procedures to guide ethical decision making. Being an ethical leader is not a simple task and requires regular self-awareness, education, and policymaking in collaboration with your team.
We wish you the best of luck in implementing our suggestions, and please do contact us on email@example.com if you have questions or need assistance.
Over the last few years, the number of private sector and government scandals have increased drastically. Every day, unethical and disgraceful behaviour and decisions are exposed, which obviously raises the question of where were the leaders at the time? Did they really not know what was going on within their company, did they turn a blind eye, or did they actively participate? When there is unethical leadership in an organisation, the implications are severe and often affect many employees and their families. Society is shocked, even enraged, by this behaviour, and call for justice to be served. However, the damage has been done, and people tend to lose trust in corporate governance and leadership. Unethical leadership seeps through society and leaves a vile taste in our mouths.
It is only in recent years that leaders have embraced an ethical consciousness in the management of an organisation, and have made ethical leadership a strategic executive topic. The word “ethics” originated from the Greek word “ethos” which means advocating moral behaviour and requirement. Ethics can, therefore, be inferred to mean to behave in an acceptable manner that is good and does no harm, opposed to doing “bad”. Being ethical is honouring your values and moral principles which enables you to behave legally and morally correctly, thus protecting the larger community. Ethical dilemmas arise if there is uncertainty and conflict between different people’s interests, values, and beliefs. In an organisation, ethical behaviour is commonly referred to as a “Code of Conduct” or “Best Practice” where both require the organisation’s culture to drive ethical behaviour. Ethical leadership is about living out these critical high-standard principles, which is done through an active process of enquiry. It is also about developing an enquiring mindset that continuously asks explorative questions. Taking it a step further, it is extending this concept to the entire organisation which gives each and every person the permission to enquire and ask questions.
A leader’s character plays a role in their ethical performance. Jones (1995) said that ethical behaviour is a personal disposition, and a character that you are born with, rather than one that has been acquired through training and learning. An ethical leader has a conscious mind, and is self-controlled and aware of the dire consequences of unethical behaviour. It is not a risk they’re willing to take as it would conflict with their inner values and beliefs. Zander (1992) identified ten characteristics of an ethical leader:
The Ethical Leader
- being humble
- being concerned for the greater good
- being honest and straightforward
- honouring commitments
- striving to be fair
- taking responsibility for their actions and behaviour
- showing respect for each individual
- encouraging others to develop
- serving others, and
- showing courage to stand up for what is wrong.
In a business environment, ethical leadership can be summarised as: (1) being honest, (2) being trustworthy, and (3) having integrity. Trust is related to demonstrating consistent, reliable, and predictable behaviour. Ethical leaders treat people with respect, dignity, fairness, are transparent in their communication, and have no double standards. Gallup, in their 2004 survey which comprised of 50 000 employees spread over 27 countries, demonstrated that respect is the primary characteristic in the workplace that people value the most. It is therefore no surprise to see it as a main characteristic in ethical leadership behaviour. Integrity is a very sought after characteristic in the business environment, and it means being honest with oneself and others, learning from mistakes, and engaging in a constant process of self-development and improvement. Demonstrating this behaviour ensures that the leader is a role model, and this should encourage others to behave in the same manner. The concept of “follow-the-leader” applies.
For leaders to roll out ethics within an organisation, they use their internally designed values. On the one hand, an organisation’s values are aimed at achieving the strategic goals, but on the other hand they are the collective moral compass of behaviours in an organisation. Researchers Blanchard & Peale (1996) identified five organisational values that support driving ethical behaviour throughout an entire organisation:
- Pride – having high esteem and respect for what the organisation stands for, the values, the people, and the mannerism in which the organisation is operating.
- Patience – being humble and accepting that it takes time to implement strategies that support the organisation to reach its strategic goals.
- Prudence – exercising sound judgement and not making risky decisions in good as well as in challenging times in the organisation.
- Persistence-the continuous quest to take all the necessary steps and actions to achieve a goal. Overcoming overwhelm, and moving forward with an ethical obligation to attain a goal.
- Perspective – the capacity and ability to determine what is truly important in any given situation.
The final question arises as to why organisations engage in unethical behaviour knowing the risk of being caught out at some stage. The answer cannot possibly be to remain competitive and have a cutting edge advantage, even if it will be for a short amount of time. I believe that market success and ethical leadership go hand in hand, and you cannot have the one without the other. Unethical behaviour leaks to the outside environment, and it won’t be long before society begins to hear about it and stops engaging with the organisation. It pays to be ethical and to uphold ethical leadership and values.
The organisational behaviour of reciprocity is not an unknown in our everyday working lives. We share information, collaborate on projects, and hopefully recognise how our efforts impact the greater objectives of the company. These are the foundations of reciprocity in the workplace, and they exist everywhere where individuals work together to achieve collective success.
However, when you first think about the idea of a giving culture at work, it may feel as if you’re going against your natural evolutionary instinct to compete for resources and thus survive and outlive your competition. If this is your first response, then it may be helpful to consider recent research in the field of neurobiology. An experiment performed by neuroscientists James Rilling and Gregory Berns at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, found that the act of helping people activated the part of our brain associated with rewards and experiencing pleasure. This literally means that we are biologically programmed to feel good by reducing the suffering of others.
So, if reciprocity is an innate human trait, then how can we harness this basic social behaviour to create a culture which benefits the individual, team, and organisation as a whole?
- Firstly, we need to generalise this reciprocal tendency to create a pay it forward culture.
- Secondly, we need to employ a culture of gratitude which can act as a buffer against stress and promote an ongoing giving culture through the reinforcement of proactive, prosocial behaviours.
Paying it forward
At its core, reciprocity comes from the foundational understanding that “if I scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine.” Reciprocity can therefore come from a place of indebtedness, which quickly leads to resentment and fatigue. Luckily, growing research in the field of positive organisational behaviours is proving that reciprocity with the intention of appreciation and gratitude elicits powerful effects on workplace effectiveness with long-term and sustainable company success.
A clear example of paying it forward is the Starbucks Coffee experiment where a researcher paid for the coffee of the person behind them, and then that person paid for the coffee of the person behind them, without expectation or instructions given by the researcher. In St. Petersburg Florida, this process continued for 11 hours, and when the individuals were interviewed, they explained that they “wanted to show their appreciation for the kindness they had received.”
This case study is a perfect example of how we can create a pay it forward culture of generalised reciprocity in an organisation. If person A shows proactive, helpful behaviour towards person B and this organically flows through person C, D, E and F, then indirectly person A will receive helpful behaviour in the future.
This requires a giving mindset (which we will discuss in the gratitude part of this article) and trust in the system that they will receive help in the future. This indirect closing of the circle is necessary as reciprocity by its very nature requires an exchange. We will only offer kindness and gratitude if at some point we receive (even indirectly) the same treatment. We are unlikely to continue helping others if we don’t receive help ourselves, just as we are unlikely to continue showing gratitude to someone if we receive no appreciation ourselves. This is where gratitude becomes vital for sustaining the giving culture.
An attitude of gratitude
At first, gratitude may be thought of as fluffy emotional stuff, but it has been proven to have profound benefits on our workplace well-being. Some of the latest research findings are:
- A daily gratitude practice can decrease stress hormones by 23%.
- Grateful people are more optimistic, and optimism has a direct positive effect on our immune systems.
- Appreciation from management increased work commitment by 80%.
- Grateful brains release Dopamine which leads to an increase in productivity by 31%.
It is obvious that on an individual level gratitude is highly beneficial to our physical and mental health as well as our productivity at work.
However, how does an attitude of gratitude increase a giving culture at work?
Recent research into the neurobiology of compassion has shown that receiving gratitude (through words, touch or actions) generates Oxytocin – the neurotransmitter responsible for nurturance, trust and bonding. This release of Oxytocin causes us to behave compassionately towards others therefore paying forward the positive emotions we have just experienced.
An attitude of gratitude at work is a simple and effective way to create more givers in the workplace. Givers, as described by Adam Grant in his book Give and Take, are those individuals that help when the benefits to others exceed their own personal costs. He says that a taker is someone who helps whenever the benefits to themselves exceed their own personal costs. Plainly said – more givers in an organisation will lead to increased proactive behaviours, collaborative intentions, and a culture of working for the greater good of the organisation, not just for personal gain.
In the average workplace there will be a mix of givers, matchers and takers, and a lack of appreciation is the number one reason why people are leaving their jobs. Instilling an attitude of gratitude will not only make the takers in your organisation feel appreciated and experience more happy hormones, which will encourage them to give more in the future as they got something back in return, but they will also be more likely to show gratitude to others. Both of these reciprocal processes will ensure that a giving culture can be sustained.
This article may have taken some of you outside your comfort zone, or otherwise just offered a scientific perspective on a giving culture, but the aim has been to show the innate desire of humans to reciprocate kindness and appreciation.
While we have been programmed to compete against each other, we are hardwired to feel good by acting in prosocial ways. By harnessing the two strategies of paying it forward and instilling an attitude of gratitude in your organisation, you will not only be improving the well-being of your employees but creating a major culture shift which will lead to increased connectivity, civility, cohesion, and collaboration at work.
If you have a story to share or questions for the 4Seeds team about this article, please leave a comment below.
In the world, as it is right now, we are in a constant state of change, greeting the uncertain and unfamiliar on a daily basis. Whether it’s as small as changing the office layout, or the ever-uncertain economic or political landscape, the need for resilience to keep calm and carry on is greater than ever. But how do we develop our resilience, and is it possible to build resilience on an organisational level?
Resilience is a complex resource which is more present for some of us than others. It is, however, a learned skill which means that we can all become more resilient – with the right internal and external factors. Resilience is a subjective experience of how we manage stress and bounce back from adversity; however, everything we do exists within the context of who, where and how we interact with the world around us. Organisation resilience, therefore, requires individual resources who collectively make an organisation more resilient, while also having organisation level resources which in turn support the development of individual resilience. Make sense?
Humans are social creatures – whether, in the workplace, the home environment or social gatherings, we thrive from belonging and being supported by others. In the history of humanity, the civilisations which were the most successful were those that were able to gather their respective strengths for the benefit of the group so they could adapt effectively for survival. This same condition is the state of the current working environment – organisations need to gather their resources (personnel and tangible) in order to adapt and be flexible to constant and inevitable change. Individually we are weak, but collectively we are strong. This same mentality can be seen in the reason why we have teams. One individual is not as effective or productive as a group can be, and we, therefore, work together to achieve a common goal. This is where the concept of organisational resilience comes in.
Organisations need to remain innovative, flexible and agile in the face of constant change, and organisational resilience allows the organisation to turn failures and potential threats into opportunities for transformation and growth.
So how can we build our resilience resources on an organisational level? This article aims to explain the three components we need to focus on when we want to develop resilience in our organisation, and how we can support ourselves and each other in the workplace to not only bounce back but to thrive in the face of adversity.
Cynthia and Mark Lengnick-Hall (2005 and 2009) are experts in the field of organisational resilience. Their research findings have found that there are three sources of organisational resilience. These are organisation-level cognitive, behavioural, as well as contextual capabilities and routines which foster resilience in the face of setbacks. In the section below we will unpack the cognitive and behavioural strategies (contextual strategies will be explained in another article so we don’t overload you).
Each of these components are based on the paper Developing a Capacity for organizational resilience through strategic human resource management (Lengnick-Hall et al., 2011):
Three cognitive strategies for organisational resilience
- Strong core values
When confronted with challenges, resilient organisations are able to bounce back because of their alignment to the core values and purpose of the organisation. If any unexpected negative events occur, knowing the core purpose of the organisation can provide the framework for not only adaptation but transformation and growth. Do you and your employees know your core values and purpose?
- Collective sensemaking
As humans, we are programmed to find meaning in situations. If there is a shared space and vocabulary for making sense of an unforeseen event, it can greatly impact how people perceive and are able to support each other to recover and grow.
- Collective growth mindset
We have mentioned the concept of the growth mindset in previous articles, and it is, by no surprise, a fundamental aspect of developing organisational resilience. If we remain in a rigid perspective where expectations are made of how things “should be”, we can quickly become hopeless and disappointed when things don’t work out. Developing a growth mindset in your organisation can help people to reflect, learn and adapt to new experiences more effectively.
Four behavioural strategies for organisational resilience
- Learned resourcefulness
The truly South African saying of ’n boer maak ’n plan is what comes to mind when we think of learned resourcefulness. In order to cope with unforeseen changes, an organisation needs to think outside the box, so that they are able to be creative and innovative with the resources available to craft an unpredictable but robust solution. This requires ingenuity, originality and creativity which is learned over time based on how we manage stress and challenges as a collective.
- Non-conforming, counterintuitive strategies
You cannot grow in the same environment which made you shrink. In order to survive and thrive in the face of change and hardship, the resilient organisation is able to find strategies which go against the grain, literally “swimming upstream” to get the job done. We cannot conform to a pre-existing strategy if things change; we need to develop an innovative and counterintuitive strategy which will open new doors and help us move forward.
- Practical daily habits
Learned routines in an organisation can quickly fall apart when we are confronted with unseen change. The behavioural element of practising daily habits is not based on routine, but rather habits which form from acting in integrity with the core values of the company. The prerequisite for this behavioural strategy is having a strong knowledge of the core values across the organisation. For example – the value of truth in an organisation can lead to the development of a habit of open dialogue and investigation which will serve the organisation to explore different avenues rather than making assumptions (and blaming) when trouble arises.
- Behavioural preparedness
This strategy comes from awareness and planning for the unseen future. Resilient organisations are able to adapt rapidly to problems that arise, abandoning behaviours that do not suit the situation, and being prepared to adapt mentally, physically, and emotionally in order to transform a negative setback into a new opportunity.
Resilience is the subjective, individual ability to bounce back from adversity and to grow in the face of challenges. While individual resources are necessary to survive and thrive when change happens, there is a need for greater organisational-level conditions to be present in order for a company to transform and grow in this day and age. Both the cognitive and behavioural strategies mentioned in this article are based on the extensive work of Lengnick-Hall et al., and provide us with a foundation of essential elements from which we can begin building resilience. Your organisation has been, is currently being, or will become, confronted with failures, setbacks and change, because as we know the only constant is change. So, starting to apply these practices into your organisation will give you greater flexibility, innovation and staying power when the going gets tough.
We wish you luck in implementing these strategies, and if you would like further assistance or have questions, our expert team is waiting for your email. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every now and again, buzzwords creep into our business language. The main one at the moment is resilience, with leaders wanting to build resilient teams and raise people’s resilience in the workplace. But what is resilience? Can it be developed or even influenced? Many people refer to it as the stand-up syndrome, or the ability to persevere during tough times. Let’s begin by looking at the roots and definition of resilience.
Resilience in the face of challenging situations has been around for centuries, as is evident in myths, fairytales, art, and literature which portrays heroes and heroines. And it continues in today’s thriving movie industry. Just look at Aquaman, The Avengers, Wonder Woman, Black Panther, or Spiderman to name a few. It is only recently though that individual resilience is spilling over into the workplace.
Resilience was first studied as a scientific concept in the 1970s while researching children who were classified as high-risk problem children. Over the next three decades, further research was conducted which indicated that resilience led to increased positive behaviour, academic achievements, a happier and more satisfying life, and a decrease in mental illness, emotional distress, criminal behaviour, and risk-taking activities. Looking at these benefits, it’s no wonder that everybody wants to increase their resilience, especially leaders in the workplace. But resilience is more than just bouncing back from adversity. It has two important benchmark criteria: firstly that you are doing better than anticipated from the adversity, and secondly that there has been a positive outcome. It’s not just about bouncing back and being in the same state of mind as before. Growth needs to happen based on a “threatening” situation. You can obviously appreciate that resilience takes time, practice, and a mindset to develop. In a work context, adverse situations are often present, but do we always come out better than expected or grow from it? Our case study is about how to implement resilience in a working environment.
Our client is in the insurance industry and has a solid track record of delivering excellent customer service. They go the extra mile with every client, and through their stellar quality work, outperform their competitors. The company is a medium-sized business with approximately thirty employees, which made it easy to engage with every employee and make a lasting and positive impact. The Managing Director had scheduled a strategy session with the team, and wanted to include tools and techniques to support the employees to be resilient in an anticipated challenging year ahead.
We were invited to facilitate a half-day workshop on developing resilience. The purpose was to impart knowledge and tools for the team on how to increase their level of resilience, and manage difficult situations and/or aggravated customers. It was about boosting the team with practical know-how so that they could thrive in the coming year.
Approach and Processes
We started off by providing background information on what resilience is, the benefits of developing it for both an individual as well as for the organisation, and ended off by sharing practical tools on how to build and maintain resilience. We also played a fun physical game with the team to assist them to transpose the learned material into real work-life situations. In this case study we will share two main resilience tools that you can apply in managing your day-to-day irritations, frustrations, and disappointments.
Tool 1 – Question your Internal Beliefs
In a moment of distress we seldom start by looking at ourselves, but rather jump right into being reactive and finding fault in the situation, which leads to us going down the blame and fault-finding path. This is not a helpful process for us. We taught the team to reverse this by questioning their assumptions and beliefs about the situation that was causing them distress; first looking inwards and then identifying their thinking traps. The practical tool to apply is the ABCDE method in which the following steps are followed.
The “A” stands for Adversity, and you need to pinpoint and name the situation that is causing you distress.
The “B” stands for Beliefs, and these are the assumptions you are making on what is causing you the actual distress. These are you sinkholes in your thinking.
The “C” stands for the Consequences of holding onto these beliefs around the adversity. It is very helpful to gain clarity of the consequences of holding onto the assumptions and beliefs.
The “D” stands for Disputation. Here we question ourselves whether the beliefs and assumptions are the only feasible explanation for the adversity. We begin to become open-minded and curious about possible alternative reasons. We challenge our thinking by looking for evidence and pondering the implications of our beliefs, assumptions and consequences.
Finally, the “E” stands for Energization. In this last step, we become energized by removing the limiting and negative assumptions around the adversity which usually results in us moving towards a positive action.
Tool 2 – Examine the External Environment
Only in this tool do we look outwards at the external environment that is adding to the level of distress we are experiencing. It can be friction with a colleague, time management, unreasonable work deadlines, or not having the necessary resources available. We imparted a short, practical tool for the team called ADAPT, and designed a plan of action to work through the adverse situation.
The first “A” stands for Attitude and is about questioning your mindset and exploring which thinking sinkholes are in the way. It also includes examining your emotions and the perception you have.
The “D” stands for Defining the problem and setting a realistic goal.
The second “A” stands for generating Alternative solutions. Brainstorming different ways of how you can accomplishing the set goal and writing down some alternative ideas.
The next step, the “P”, stands for Predicting the consequences. This entails examining the alternative solutions generated in the previous step, and evaluating their level of effectiveness. You start to look at things from all angles, and place yourself in other people’s shoes.
And the final step, the “T”, stands for Testing it. Moving into action and implementing the plan.
Impact and Results
This two-step process was a start for the team to adjust their thinking towards life’s challenges. It was about accepting that life is fluid, and that irritating, frustrating and annoying situations will happen to all of us on a regular basis. We cannot prevent them from happening, however we are in control of our thoughts, we can regulate our emotions, and we can choose how we will react and grow from the challenge.
For organisations, teaching people resilience skills is very beneficial to their profitability and productivity. In a recent study by Gallup in 2018, figures showed that 23% of people suffer from permanent burnout, and 44% from occasional burnout.
If your employees or leaders are experiencing similar challenges, and you’d like our support, contact us on email@example.com to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our expert team.
Employee engagement has become a topic which has gained much attention over the past few years, with a wave of different strategies, tips and hints on how to get your employees more engaged in the workplace. While most of this advice is helpful, and is calling the attention of executives to the value of engagement in reaching company outcomes, some do not always address the root cause of employee disengagement.
The aim of this article is to reveal the secret to employee engagement – it isn’t your employees! The true measure of increased employee engagement is the organisational climate and culture which permeates on every level. A high level of motivation, proactivity and high productivity cannot be met in the frontlines alone. While every employee has the right to experience personal satisfaction in their work, they also feed into a bigger system of strategy and objectives which allow the organisation to grow and succeed.
At 4Seeds we believe in the power of the individual to influence the success of the whole. Our knowledge and expertise in the field of Positive Psychology has shown us that Positive Organisations are not crafted through short-term quick fixes or one-day team building events.
It is through a carefully managed system of continuous intentional actions that realise the potential of the individual within the structure and framework of the organisation.
In order to achieve sustainable improvements in employee engagement, an organisation and its leaders need to commit to a long-term strategy which puts people first.
The Happiness at Work Model which was designed and developed by the iOpener Institute for People & Performance is a highly valuable and proven method to improve not only employee engagement, but increase the bottom line through improved customer satisfaction, better business practices, and an overarching trust and pride in the organisation.
The Happiness at Work Model lays out the fundamental pillars of a successful organisation, as well as the core drivers of individual and collective success. These pillars provide the structural guidance needed to improve employee engagement – for the long-term. These are illustrated in the image below (courtesy of the iOpener Institute for People & Performance, Oxford, United Kingdom).
Key Questions that Define Sustainable Employee Engagement
“Would you fully engage with someone you didn’t trust?”
This is a key question to ask yourself when deciding to engage in a sustainable employee engagement strategy. If an employee receives mixed messages from company communications, they are unlikely to put their best foot forward; guarding themselves against being damaged. Trust in an organisation comes from developing transparent, open and reliable communication channels on every level of the organisation. It is the responsibility of the culture in the organisation to support the development of psychological safety and mixed messages, and varied responses from management and a lack of transparency can severely affect the development of trust in the organisation’s goals, management and agenda.
“Why would an employee be committed to your organisation’s mission?”
A key overarching symbol of engagement is commitment to the mission and vision of the organisation. Without a sense of how they meaningfully contribute towards the objectives of the organisation, employees are unlikely to feel fully committed which will in turn affect their level of engagement in daily tasks. Leaders need to provide sounds reasons and regular reminders of how amazing the organisation is and the impact its work has on its stakeholders, consumers and society as a whole. These regular reminders of the value of each person’s work in making a positive impact will grow pride in the organisation and its mission.
“If you don’t know that you have done well, why would you keep trying?”
We have mentioned the value of recognition and feedback many times in the past for its profound effect on the self-confidence, motivation, and positive emotions employees experience at work. However, there remains an assumption in many organisations that feedback is a formal, regulated quarterly review process. This attitude towards recognition hinders the constant employee engagement which so many organisations desire. However, in answering the question, an informal, continuous culture of celebration is vital for sustainable engagement and is the responsibility of every manager and leader within the organisation.
This article serves to highlight the necessity of organisations to take responsibility for the structures and systems which can lead to employee engagement. While each employee needs to be groomed and developed individually, the secret to sustainable employee engagement lies in the trust, pride and recognition that exists in the culture of the organisation. Alter these consciously and systemically, and employee engagement will be just one of the positive side effects.
4Seeds is the ONLY accredited provider of Happiness at Work in South Africa. Our Happiness at Work organisational change management intervention has shown proven effectiveness across the board.
For more information on this powerful investment and how it can help you boost customer service, reduce employee turnover, and provide tangible results for stakeholders, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is Flow, and Why Do we Need it at Work?
Flow psychology is one of the main concepts behind employee engagement in Positive Psychology theory. First researched and coined by Positive Psychology co-founder Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow has gained a lot of attention in recent years because of its powerful personal and organisational benefits.
In this article, we will share what flow is, the benefits of increasing flow at work, and how to increase flow experiences.
Let’s dive in!
The Definition of Flow
Have you ever felt as if you lost time and your mind stopped analysing and planning while you were doing something you loved and valued? That was a flow experience. Flow is a unique state of high motivation, achievement, and satisfaction in what you are doing without external motivators or a perceived reward.
According to Csikszentmihalyi (1990), flow is “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Flow is the unique state that can be reached through the healthy balance of challenge and skills. Have a look at this image.
If we are over-challenged and under-skilled we become anxious. However, if we are under-challenged and over-skilled, we become bored. Flow is the perfect “sweet spot” where our skills and our challenge meet.
How to Know When you are in Flow: The Eight Characteristics of Flow
Not sure if you have experienced flow before? Csikszentmihalyi describes flow according to these eight characteristics:
- Complete concentration on the task at hand
- Clarity of goals with immediate feedback
- The transformation of time (either slowing down or speeding up)
- The experience is rewarding and grows intrinsic motivation
- There is a feeling of effortless ease
- There is a healthy balance between challenge and skill
- Action and awareness are merged (there is a loss of self-consciousness)
- There is a feeling of confidence and control over the task
The Benefits of Flow in the Workplace
The extensive studies exploring the effects of flow for individuals and organisations have found some positive and powerful benefits to this “sweet spot” state.
From the brain perspective, two things happen when we are in flow. Firstly, there are five different neurotransmitters that are released into the system when we are in flow. Each of these contribute to the flow state being innately pleasurable, rewarding and motivating. Secondly, when we are in flow, we have reduced prefrontal activity (the part of our brain responsible for self-consciousness, self-doubt, and time awareness) which means that while we are in flow we are able to turn off our inner critic, forget about our other pressures, remove time urgency, and “be in the moment” with what we are doing.
These two processes of the brain activate some amazing personal benefits to flow including:
- Increased sense of confidence
- Increased information retention and learning
- Increased productivity (even 15% more time in flow can boost productivity by up to 50%!)
- Better sleep
- More positive emotions
- The ability to cope better with stressful situations
While these benefits alone are motivation to want more flow experiences, the more individuals who have flow experiences at work, the more positive benefits for the workplace as a whole. These company benefits include:
- Improved employee engagement
- Improved productivity and product output
- Improved employee morale and intrinsic motivation
- Greater sense of meaning in work tasks
- Better overall team performance
- Increased commitment to company outcomes
Now that you have a better understanding of what flow is and how it can benefit the individual and the company in powerful ways, we’re ready to introduce some methods on how to increase flow experiences at work.
How to Support Flow Experiences at Work
“People reach a flow state three times more often at work than in their free time.” – Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre, 1989
This is an important statistic to consider when thinking about flow. The workplace can be a conductive environment for flow because it already has some key components needed such as clear, structured goals, immediate feedback, and challenges that require a high level of skill to complete.
There are many factors at work that prevent flow experiences, including high levels of occupational stress, poor role clarity, a lack of immediate and specific feedback, or a negative attitude towards one’s work. While an organisation cannot be responsible for many of the individual differences needed for each team member to experience flow, there are some general guidelines that can make your office more conducive to increased flow experiences.
Physical Structures for Flow
In recent years, the “bullpen” structure has become more popular for workplaces because it encourages collaboration, information sharing and social bonding, however this nature of working is not conducive to flow. In order to go into a flow state, one needs to be uninterrupted, undisrupted, and able to concentrate. If your organisation enjoys the “bullpen” office layout, then a good idea is to have a quiet zone where people can go to get into flow. Or perhaps look at having sectioned areas where people can do teamwork or individual work.
Sensory deprivation can also help to increase flow states, so become aware of the noise, visual stimulation, and the amount of movement in your office. If there is a constant change in the sensory pace of the environment, it makes it almost impossible for people to go into flow for long periods.
Another consideration is the physical comfort of your employees. When we are uncomfortable (ergonomically, changing desks regularly, or next to the toilet) we are less likely to get into flow as we will be distracted by the desire for more physical comfort. If the body requires attention, the mind will step out of the flow state back into the prefrontal cortex to analyse.
Social Structures for Flow
Flow states require immediate and direct feedback, whether this is from the task itself, management, or team members. The best way to ensure that this happens is to have a communication system in place which provides immediate feedback on completion of the task (an app which gamifies validation is a fun and progressive example, however it may be as simple as a quick daily check-in with each team member).
Another consideration in order for people to go into flow is for them to have fewer distractions – a culture of immediately responding to emails, urgent phone calls, and constant damage control are just a few examples of how your office culture can break down the chances for flow at work.
A flow state is the optimal state of human functioning where challenge, skill and intrinsic motivation meet. A sure-fire way to enhance performance, boost employee engagement and increase company outputs is to encourage more flow experiences at work. While this is an individual process, there are certain physical and social strategies to consider which can boost the number of flow experiences employees have at work.
We hope you have learnt something new from this article, and welcome your questions and feedback on how this influences the flow states in your organisation.
If you require further assistance, or have some specific concerns or questions, please send us an email to email@example.com