When it comes to professional life, aspiring to build stronger work relationships and improving written, verbal and non-verbal communication are often key areas of focus. Who doesn’t want to be more productive, engaged and successful by strengthening rapport with managers, peers and direct reports?
Flourishing at work in these areas doesn’t have to be a lofty aspiration. With these practical psychological tips, you can transform your workplace and thrive at work.
Appreciate Your Employees – and Mean It
While economics mandate most of us hold down a job, financial recognition, like a bonus or raise, typically plays a very small role in employees’ sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. In fact, a recent study by employee motivation firm Badgeville found 70% of employees said meaningful recognition did not come with an associated dollar value. Authenticity is the critical differentiating factor here, which means forced appreciation or insincere commentary can have a detrimental effect. Instead, internally set a goal for yourself to offer gratitude with some degree of regularity. Examples can include sending one appreciative email per day or opening a meeting with one acknowledgment of a job well-done.
Emphasizing accomplishments instead of tasks can also transform the organizational mindset into a positive one, as well as provide a connection for employees to the organization’s overall strategy. In practice, this kind of recognition could be structured around the way an employee impacted sales, instead of highlighting that she completed a spreadsheet. Not only will employees be more engaged, satisfied and appreciative of intentional response, but the organization’s productivity is likely to get a boost as well.
Some companies thrive on a warped competition around who works the most hours or establishes a perception that the best employees never stop. But taking a break to scroll through a list of the top 10 cutest animals may not be the productivity-sapping pause it’s often painted as. In fact, successful organizations encourage breaks. Consider this 2012 study, which found that cute images specifically boosted motor function.
Of course, inappropriate use of breaks (or breaks that outnumber the time spent actually working) can be detrimental, but relieving the brain after a stint of working can help focus and engagement in the long run. As with any human muscle, the brain needs a break to rebuild and return, often stronger. As one option, offering and championing physical breaks, in the form of company-sponsored exercise, can boost productivity and may reduce sick days as employees improve their mental and physical health.
Establish a Mentorship Program
Unlike previous generations, most workers today will not spend the duration of their careers at a single company. While the workforce tends to be naturally more mobile, companies can reduce that detached perspective by ensuring employees know the organization is investing in their development.
One of the best ways to develop an employee is to partner them with an experienced mentor who can establish a relationship with the employee and develop their skills and sense of value at the organization. This fosters relationships that may improve tenure and also provides an organic environment for social networking. Mentors can also encourage creativity and innovation by coaching and encouraging employees to share thoughts and ideas.
Mentorship can also help with developing leadership in minority employees, as Jarin Eisenberg, Executive Director of Melbourne Main Street and Florida Tech Instructor, points out:
“Mentorship is essential to an individual’s development, and with today’s emphasis on establishing diverse and inclusive workplaces, the need for mentorship is crucial to helping those who would not normally sit at the table gain access to a seat.”
Rally Employees Around Your Brand
Increase connection between employees – and intimidate the competition – by creating company branding and symbols to display in the workplace. The visual can help establish camaraderie and provide commonality between people who may have little in common. A 2016 study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology supports this, noting that adopting a symbol can make people feel more like a united group. And, anyone who has been to a sporting event can also vouch for the unifying effect of a team mentality.
Watch Your Body Language
Non-verbal communication can speak volumes. For example, if a colleague says, “I’m not upset,” but he is crossing his arms and frowning, it seems likely he’s might be a little displeased. Be mindful of what your mannerisms and physical presence are saying, and ensure that message is the one you want to convey. This includes practicing good posture by standing tall to appear confident, avoiding incessant, submissive head nodding or ducking, and staying mobile during presentations to retain attention. You shouldn’t have to tell people you are a confident leader – your body language should make that case for you.
Implementing these psychology-proven improvements to boost satisfaction can go a long way toward improving productivity and engagement in the long run. These positive changes may even have a snowball effect, as one happy department impacts the next, transforming the company with a slew of positive, engaged and happy employees. And that’s an aspiration worth pursuing.