Disconnection can feel ubiquitous and indiscernible. It’s effect is so gradual that it can be hard to pinpoint just when the feelings of disconnection and discontentment started to develop. The flat mood, lack of motivation and detachment from colleagues, projects and employer brand, previously so proudly aligned, doesn’t seem to lift.
Clients, friends and family have all reflected that they’ve felt detached from colleagues, or a lack of transparency from management decisions and exclusive conversations.
With so much change that’s out of our control, those feelings can lead to distrust and often thoughts of ‘what am I doing here, should I find another job?’. In the first shutdown phase, most organisations did a Herculean job of transitioning to remote work and setting up systems to maintain productivity. But connection is not about systems. Not everybody is built for remote working and not every organisation was equipped to build a connected culture remotely.
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued”– Brene Brown
Connection for everyone is slightly different, some people need more face to face, for others it may be the people or dynamics involved. In an office environment, even if an employee didn’t feel truly seen, heard and valued, they felt some connection through daily interactions and conversations in an office environment. But fast forward six months working remotely, without deliberate shifts in individual self awareness and manager’s style, some employees are now disengaged, struggling with low motivation and productivity.
In the midst of a downturn, I hear people just grateful to have a jobs. The challenge once the downturn starts to lift, and we’ve seen this post other downturns, is employees that felt disconnected from their employer will be the first ones looking for change, and greater fulfilment, with a new employer. If organisations have already born the brunt of the economic shutdown, can they afford the cost of high staff turnover in the coming 12 months?
As restrictions have extended, and some organisations have embraced a permanent shift to remote working, there is an opportunity to build connection and sense of belonging, at no financial cost.
Each individual looks for significance, that sense of being needed or important. When that need is not fulfilled, humans will try to create it by getting attention. It may show up as dominating meetings, being highly critical without offering solutions or even self sabotaging behaviour. By understanding what’s needed as individuals, as well as individual team members, small adjustments can be made. Some need more one-to-one time, for others it may be responsibility for a specific task.
There is a difference between being given a forum to speak and actually being heard. If employees speak up but feel it will be perceived negatively or ignored, they will stop speaking up at all. Creating a safe space to share ideas, ask questions, raise concerns or create solutions is vital. Whether it’s through daily communication, 360 feedback, collaboration or meeting dynamics, you need to create a culture of trust where there is transparency, respect and opportunity for growth.
Feeling valued is can be tied to our sense of purpose. Do we feel we have mastery over our work? Or autonomy and trusted to deliver on outcomes? Or are we growing? While recognition received one-to-one or as a public announcement can feel great, ensuring employees have a sense of mastery, autonomy and development can sustain an employee much longer.
While flexible working has been embraced by the vast majority, not everyone is built for full time remote working. The organisations that will be well positioned to flourish when economic activity returns will be those with an engaged and connected culture.