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An emotional disconnect: Social threats in the workplace

At its core, the act of hiring a person to perform a job is considered an economic transaction. The employee provides his/her time and energy to perform a set of tasks and, in exchange, the organization provides financial compensation. But that’s not how an employee sees it. Yes, employees certainly expect to get a paycheck, but they expect a lot more than that!

Through breakthroughs in neuroscience research, we now know that our brain predominantly experiences the workplace as a social system in which we navigate and benefit from all of the interrelationships among individuals, groups and the organization as a whole. We all come into the workplace with social needs, such as the need to feel acknowledged and appreciated, the need to be treated fairly and respectfully and the need to feel supported and valued by our supervisor. If these needs are overlooked, neglected or unmet, it’s very difficult to feel engaged.

In my last blog, I shared how our brain is inherently wired to minimize threats and maximize rewards and how our brain’s threat/reward system ultimately impacts how employees feel about your organization. I shared that engagement is an emotional experience… heightened when we feel rewarded (e.g., respected, connected, informed, and valued) and diminished when we feel threatened (e.g., micromanaged, unappreciated, underestimated, or talked down to). What happens when our brain experiences a threat?

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