In this post on 16 September, Halogen Software blogger Sean Conrad wrote:

More and more it is becoming a standard for work environments to have a strong, solid culture that tends to the social needs of the employee. Workplaces that have good management and leaders, and a fluid and positive internal culture, are grabbing the most talented fish in the job market.

Recently neurologists conducted a study that focused on how our brains work at work. While the research focused on the social aspects of the workplace, it brought forth elements that any leader or manager should take into consideration for themselves and their team.

Their findings showed that in 2011, employees' motives for staying at a job have changed. We no longer see work as a "transactional system" or a give-take situation. Instead our brains understand it as a social system, like a family.

This means it's no longer good enough for managers to just be around, they have to be engaging on a daily basis with their staff. Why? Because employees are no longer highly motivated by financial gain.

Instead the determining factors for an employee's performance is based on whether they feel included in the work environment, can relate to their work and workplace, and the fairness of their manager.
A Social Hit to the Head
As mammals we naturally need to feel protected and safe in our environment. We have instinctive, biological reactions when we feel threatened. It's the old "fight or flight" response, and neurologists are proving these instincts apply just as much in the workplace as elsewhere.

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When employees get a pay cut or are assigned a task that is below their competence or feel that their manager is leaving them out, their anterior cingulated cortex - the front left part of the brain that interprets physical pain understands these situations as a "social hit to the head".

Meaning, they can be just as painful as a physical hit. There are three ways these "social hits" can be interpreted by employees:
  1. Lack of social interactions with others in the workplace leaves them feeling isolated and uninvolved
  2. Non-supportive peers or teams to help keep them motivated and to provide feedback
  3. Critical environments that focus on the negative instead of positive solutions
Employees who feel as though they've been dealt a "social hit" will decrease their performance and interact less with their co-workers. Ultimately they can develop an apathetic attitude towards their work and workplace.

The above three situations are also the most common reasons why employees leave their jobs.

There's a way to avoid all of this! It's call the SCARF approach.

Using the SCARF Approach
To avoid running into these problems with employees, managers can apply the SCARF (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness) approach. This leadership approach can be used to help employees understand that they are wanted and welcomed, needed and recognized within their positions and the company.

Here are some ways leaders can do this:

1. Leaders must stay confident on a daily basis and in uncertain situations.

This certainty helps employees feel safe and in-tune to their work, which in turn improves their performance.

2. Leaders should adapt a hands-on management style during critical or time sensitive situations.

Letting employees know, "hey, it's going to be okay", increases the likelihood of their success during a hard time by keeping them motivated.

3. Take a macro and micro management approach and apply it to different employees.

If you notice one of your employees needs more attention to help her develop and adjust, then provide extra attention or feedback. Conversely, if an employee needs more breathing room and can independently finish tasks, give her the space.

Understanding how our brains work at work is all about understanding the communication and social needs of your employees. Addressing those needs directly can bring a huge return in terms of motivation and performance. What do you think? Does this message resonate?

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