Building relationships in a post-pandemic world
The research you described above highlights the positive impact that well-designed team structures can have on an organization. What steps can managers and employees take to build strong relationships on a one-to-one basis?
Relations have taken a hit over the past two and a half years. To foster and recreate bonds between colleagues, I often advise leaders to do something that may seem anathema to an effective company: slow down!
Take deliberate steps to get to know employees. Likewise, develop opportunities that allow employees to get to know you and each other in a meaningful way. Sometimes we might even need to orchestrate ways to give and receive empathy, as I explain in my article “Employees are lonelier than ever: Here’s how employers can help” in harvard business review.
Creating a connection doesn’t have to be a grand or complex exercise. For example, I know a manager who starts every team meeting with the question, “Where is your time and attention today?” Employee responses not only communicate what may be affecting their work, but also share something about their lives outside of work and who they are.
Going beyond superficial relationships and interactions in the workplace can seem risky, because true intimacy involves a certain level of vulnerability. To have these kinds of relationship-building conversations, employees need to feel psychologically safe in their workplace.
Explain what you mean by “psychological safety”. What impact does this have on relationships and performance at work?
My research has shown that employees of all levels and backgrounds frequently hide their negative and positive feelings. They often avoid speaking out in the workplace because they fear retaliation or believe their efforts will be wasted. This leaves leaders in the dark about existing or future issues, erodes trust, and hinders successful collaboration.
Psychological safety has a considerable impact on performance and relationships at work. Indeed, a large-scale data analytics project at Google identified it as the most important determinant of team success and a critical component in fostering more inclusive work environments.
Employees need to feel deeply that they are heard and seen in the workplace. Creating a culture of transparency, in which it is not only acceptable but actively encouraged to come forward – by asking questions, raising concerns, sharing ideas and admitting mistakes – is a key first step in creating a psychological safety.
In creating more inclusive work environments, how can organizations specifically support women?
With a fellow researcher, I recently began to search for answers to this important question. Although our work is at a relatively early stage, I can say that we have investigated the levels and types of support and rewards – social, emotional, professional – that have been given and received during the pandemic. In identifying these types of support and the rewards received, we noted strong gender correlations.
Although of a different orientation, our research joins the remarkable studies of Linda Babcock, Brenda Peyser, Lise Vesterlund, Laurie Weingart and others on unpromoted tasks (NTP): time-consuming work that helps the organization but does not advance the career of those who complete it. These authors found that women disproportionately take on these unrewarded responsibilities.
Over time, these researchers have found that, when added to women’s usual workload and without any recognition, NTPs can become a source of resentment, dissatisfaction and ultimately burnout. . According to them, the first step in alleviating this burden on women is to make them aware of this problem. Only by being honest about the problem can solutions be found.
The opinions expressed in this interview do not necessarily represent the opinions of Cornerstone Research.