Monday, July 2, 2018

Smile, It’s Monday: Your Weekly Wake-up Call to Become a More Effective Leader

So lonely inside, so busy out there,
and all you wanted was somebody who cares.
--- Michelle Branch

One of the most significant problems in organizations today is the loneliness many people working within them feel. This loneliness can have serious performance implications.

Groups tend to reject lonely individuals, which creates an isolated out-group. Organizational members who feel ostracized tend to withdraw and become disengaged.

A seminal longitudinal study by Hakan Ozcelik and Sigal Barsade found that loneliness triggers emotional withdrawal and reduces both individual and team performance.

From these research findings, it seems loneliness is part of a vicious, self-reinforcing cycle. Lonely individuals see their social environment as more threatening, expect more negative social interactions, and remember more negative social encounters.

Maintaining those interpretations of others’ behavior often results in the lonely individual responding negatively to others, creating further social distance, which in turn reinforces their loneliness.

As a leader in such an organization, how can you reduce this tendency of an in-group to form and relegate some employees to a lonely out-group?

One means is to encourage people to connect with each other in non-work contexts. Off-site events such as bake-offs, group hikes, sports, and other activities that allow people to get to know each other beyond their mutually reinforcing acts of self-presentation at work are likely to help them feel like more of a team.

This week, take a few concerted steps to reduce loneliness in your organization.

Anthony Silard is the president of The Center for Social Leadership, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC and the author of the Simon & Schuster book The Connection: Link Your Passion, Purpose, and Actions to Make a Difference in the World. To receive Smile, It's Monday every other week, enter your email here (1-step only). To support The Center for Social Leadership's Young Leaders Program for disadvantaged youth either directly or through purchases, click here.

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