Many emerging studies have made one thing very clear; the human brain is a social organ. Its neurological and physiological responses are directly and profoundly influenced by social interaction.
Most of us experience work as an economic transaction where we exchange labor for financial compensation. The brain, however, experiences the workplace as a social system. The five social qualities that are required to minimize dysfunction in the workplace are: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness.
1) Status – status does not have to directly relate to title or income. For example, the perception of status increases when people are simply given praise.
2) Certainty – people crave certainty. Not knowing what will happen next can be profoundly debilitating because it requires extra neural energy.
3) Autonomy – when an employee experiences a lack of control, the perception of uncertainty is aroused.
4) Relatedness – the human threat response is aroused when people feel rejected, or cut off from social interaction.
5) Fairness – the perception that an event has been unfair generates a strong response in the brain, stirring hostility and undermining trust.
People who feel betrayed or unrecognized at work such as when any of the five social qualities are threatened — will experience these things as a neural impulse. Not only does the employee’s brain become much less efficient, the ensuing reaction is usually to internalize feelings, and consequently limit commitment and engagement at work. They become purely transactional employees, reluctant to give more to the company.
Leaders who have the ability to intentionally address the social brain in the service of optimal performance will be able to create an environment that supports collaboration, fosters productive change, and effectively engages an employee’s individual talents.
Read more on the social brain at work.
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