Warships or relationships: what are you building?

With worker shortages plaguing every industry and post-pandemic burn-out still affecting people in droves, the quality of your workplace culture has never been so vital.

The mindset that employees are “lucky” to have a job and should be bringing their A-Game to the office every day is no longer reasonable – and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon with younger generations placing more importance on culture, purpose and a work/life balance than they do pay.

Unfortunately, these facts still escape managers and leaders in the public, private and non-profit sectors alike. A failure to recognise the importance of relationship building and trust has led to severe levels of workplace animosity, bullying, breakdowns, and many other negative impacts.

We can see this demonstrated again and again through various industry reports, such as Safe Work Australia’s 2020 Workers’ Compensation Statistics. This report found that “the public administration and safety industry recorded the highest frequency rate for diseases (1.8), more than twice the all-industry average (0.8). Most disease claims (88%) in this industry relate to mental health conditions.”

In the non-profit sector, a lack of trust between board members, leadership and staff often leads to destructive outcomes, as we’ve seen with a number of organisations in recent years.

Effort, energy and creativity is voluntary

We learn from extensive research on the Neuroscience of Trust that an organisation can either have a culture that promotes prosocial behaviours (such as trustworthiness) or antisocial behaviours (such as bullying). It can’t have both.

My own workplace coaching has shown me that, even when an organisation believes they have a good culture, staff often have a very different opinion. For example, a manager may think all is well because they try to treat everyone fairly. However, being “fair” doesn’t necessarily guarantee trust or inspire people to bring any effort, energy or creativity to their work. 

In fact, thinking that you are treating everyone fairly or “like a good bloke” creates what is known as a projection bias. You assume others think, feel, believe and behave like you do and expect them to respond in kind. But this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth! No two people will ever think, feel or behave the same way – and leadership styles that hold this bias can end up unravelling very quickly. 

Most people at work want to help each other – but the decision to do so is always theirs to make. Without understanding what cultural attributes must be present in an organisation to build a high trust environment, it’s unlikely people will feel inclined to do so. 

Culture can promote engagement…or it can drive people away. And when it does drive people away, the cost can be incredibly high – not just in retention and failure to achieve business goals, but in potential bullying and harassment claims. 

Warships or relationships: what are you building?

I’ve been invited to facilitate a 1-hour workshop for the Department of Defence on this topic. The workshop is titled Warships or relationships: what are you building?

Neuroscience shows us that it doesn’t matter whether you’re building warships or relationships; generating a threat response in your people and partners will sink your mission or make it harder, more expensive, and take longer to get an outcome. This session is highly interactive, focusing on collaboration as we discuss how to turn neuroscience insights into actions we can apply to our teams. 

Email me now to book a workshop for your team.

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