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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Loneliness at Work?

While most of us probably do not expect to have our most significant relationships at work, we have to recognize that many of us spend at least a third, if not half, of our waking hours connected to work. At our core we are social beings, and if we do not have some sort of steady relational "spark" with colleagues (c'mon, you know what I mean!), we start drying up inside.

I had one client who refused to connect on a deeper level at work. She kept two separate phones for work and life, never brought her partner to work events (and barely attended any of those events herself), and did not divulge any details about her personal life with co-workers beyond some stories about her pets. When I asked her why she maintained such rigid boundaries, she said she did not trust anyone where she worked. She was not seen as warm or approachable (shocking, I know!), and struggled to break down even the slightest barriers as we tried to work through the roadblocks that interfered with her success.

I recently watched to a 7-minute videocast that articulated many of the things I talked about with this woman, along with other clients. It comes from Harvard Business Review, and is presented by Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general of the US.

While not a "ooh-that-sounds-so-FUN!" topic, I really recommend it. It is done in a very engaging way (it's part of HBR's "Whiteboard Sessions") and breaks it all down in simple, visual ways. He makes it clear that the "loneliness epidemic" impacts all levels of leadership and is thus worthy of consideration.

He touches on key issues that are should spur further learning:

  • the impacts of chronic stress;
  • the need for deeper connection at work (part of what is needed for employee engagement);
  • the crucial role of leaders in modeling healthy work boundaries.
Should you connect with this in any way, you may be thinking, "OK, now what?!"

Here are three things that can get you started:
  1. How to Become More Self-Aware. This is a great podcast interview of an organizational psychologist who discusses what she describes at the "meta-skill" of the 21st century.
  2. "I Have a Best Friend at Work." The researchers at Gallup are doing some excellent work around employee engagement, built around a new tool they call the Q12. As I think about the past client who had so many walls built up, I wish I could have passed along these words from this article: "The evolution of quality relationships is very normal and an important part of a healthy workplace." This article does a good job describing why we need interesting, safe, supportive friendships at work.
  3. Consider whether you might need to seek out support. I have touched on this before on this blog and recommend this past post again for further resources related to therapy, grief, loss, and depression.
Last but not least, feel free to contact me if you have questions related to today's post at Have a great week.

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