The great resignation is a crisis of belonging. This is how we actually organize ourselves at work

What do you think is the main motivator of people in the workplace? The common wisdom Is it their hope of a promotion trap — more money, status, vacation time, maybe a special parking space — or their need for efficiency, creativity, and self-actualization? actualization.

I asked this and other related questions to more than 600 people in a variety of organizations ranging from Fortune 100 companies, police departments, psychological clinics to small businesses and nonprofits.

The interviews I conducted led me to a surprising revelation about our deepest motivations at work. People I’ve talked to in depth about what wakes them up in the morning and gets them into the office, hospital, art studio, or sports arena don’t show any of the above as primary motivators. their intrinsic motivation.

Instead, just like a series of psychological studies focused on our social relationships as the most important ingredient for our long-term happinessThe main driver of the hundreds of people I’ve interviewed is society.

The main reason people join and stay in a company or organization is not because they want to earn more money and achieve high status (although they like both), but because they want to belong. Their deepest inner desire to fulfill at work is to feel included, accepted, appreciated and appreciated by a social group to which they deserve to belong.

An operations director of a retail company described this feeling of not experiencing belonging. “I felt alone because my boss was biased and spent a lot of time outside the office with the sales manager. This caused unfair treatment and made me feel excluded,” he said.

What does such treatment at work lead to at home? A salesperson in a biotech company told me how the failure of leaders to make her feel like she belonged and was appreciated could affect her life outside. office:

“It is isolation. It’s very painful – that loneliness, that feeling of not belonging… It affects every part of my life. It’s really because I come home and I’m like… I’m not doing anything… I’m just sitting there sad and depressed and my kids will try to be like “Mom, let’s go. Come on.” And I said, ‘No, you guys go. Here’s some money and I’ll stay here.’”

The need to belong runs deep within our composition as humans. A recent study found that feelings of lack of belonging (in other words, alienation), as for this salesperson, neutralize important elements of psychological functioning, including a sense of meaning in life. Believe it or not, even feel rejected by a despised group may be harmed.

Bring it home

Researching and teaching leadership for over thirty years has led me to believe that an org chart that best reflects how the organization operates actually contains the CEO in a circle in the middle. In every direction are other circles — the people the CEO trusts most. Turn outside into other circles of people they trust.

Leaders play an important role in helping people experience this sense of belonging. The safety of the people you lead depends on feeling central to – and valued by – social media as an organization.

How can you foster this sense of belonging in the people you manage or lead? Here are three strategies based on my research:

Scale of kindness

The simple act of being kind and empathetic to people is the first step. Sincere lack of interest is like air – you don’t notice it when it’s there every day, but when it’s gone, you notice it all.

As a software engineer (yes, they have feelings too) shared with me: “What reduces my sense of belonging is [the senior leaders] not really say hello to you. Doesn’t really make eye contact with you or have any kind of small talk or discussion. The only communication you have is something that requires it, like “I need this” or “You need to do this.”

Create social networking opportunities

While making your team members feel like they belong starts with common sense, that’s not where it ends. Bring them together in meaningful ways, whether it’s brainstorming for a new project, hiking together, or playing softball and having a picnic.

Get everyone back to the office as soon and safely as possible

Now that social distancing measures are easing, it’s time to safely – and firmly – rebuild the social connections people need to feel they need – and belong – in your organization. your position.

Dr. Anthony Silard is an associate professor of leadership and director of the Center for Sustainable Leadership at the Luiss School of Business in Rome and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Monterrey Institute of Technology. Anthony’s research focuses on emotions, leadership, loneliness, and trauma. His latest book is Screened in: The Art of Living Freely in the Digital Age. Anthony’s blogs, videos, courses and podcasts can be found here.

Opinions expressed in commentary are those of their authors only and do not reflect the views and beliefs of Luck.

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