Bridget recently told a story of her workplace. Trust is low. “We’ve had a round of redundancies and there is talk of a second round coming. Everyone is concerned about his or her future and there is a lot of anxiety within the team. Our Manager, Bob, is really stressed and pushing to maintain productivity. People are spending less time working and more time worrying. Bob is focusing on tasks, setting goals and demanding we meet all targets. He is not talking to people about our concerns. He is interrupting and not listening when we ask questions. No one feels a personal connection to him. It’s like you can’t make contact with the ‘real Bob’, he’s so focused on getting things done’. Bridget went on to say people didn’t trust Bob, due to the lack of personal connection and that work productivity was declining even more.
When there are no bonds of trust at work, our collective energy for compassion, creativity, and productivity fades.
Hopefully you have also had the opposite experience: feeling genuinely connected to and cared for by a supervisor and the people with whom you work. When you feel this, you enjoy work more, and you’re motivated to bring your best game.
Emotional bonds at work matter. They affect employees’ overall wellbeing, engagement and the bottom line. Emotional bonds are ultimately, what make our work meaningful. We know this from our experience and research is confirming the importance of leaders creating bonds of trust.
Creating Emotional Bonds Leads to Trust
So, what exactly is an emotional bond, and how can you create it at work?
When you form an emotional bond with someone, there is a sense of security, trust, emotional accessibility, and reliability. Emotional bonds involve interactions that are inherently meaningful and produce energy that enlarges our capacity to connect to others.
Here are 4 practices to help you create bonds of trust with your employees, co-workers, friends and family.
1. Foster a connection mindset.
There is a myth that emotional bonds aren’t relevant to leadership and the workplace. Fortunately this mindset is beginning to change. The most successful companies are putting their people first and treating customers like family. They create a culture that fosters the awareness of the importance of building emotional bonds every single day. Just being mindful of opportunities to strengthen emotional bonds each day is a huge head start.
Try it now: How can you strengthen an emotional bond with someone today? How can you help your team foster a connection mindset?
2. Remove barriers to bonding.
Pay attention to when you block the bonding process and why. Some leaders block the bonding process for fear of being rejected, being used, or being seen as too soft. In a tough climate, people default to being tougher, when the opposite is more effective – being gentler.
Too many work cultures promote this fear of being too soft, although often there are deeper reasons for blocking the bonding process. Working with a coach can help uncover and remove these reasons.
Try it now: When have you withheld from bonding with others? What were the circumstances and why do you think you did this?
3. Be emotionally available.
This means that you make yourself available to process challenges with your people. Sometimes these challenges will focus directly on work tasks, and other times they will focus on emotional issues that are affecting work. Whatever the type of challenge, be available for your people to process them. This doesn’t mean you don’t hold people accountable, but it does mean you listen and provide guidance and support. In fact, this is the best approach to holding people accountable. It lets your people know that you expect a certain level of performance because you care about them personally and about the organisation. This will win their loyalty.
Try it now: What is one thing you can do to be more emotionally available to your employees and co-workers?
4. Foster empathy and compassion.
Creating a bond of trust starts with empathy and compassion. Empathy is feeling with others. You have to put yourself in another’s shoes emotionally. Compassion can be described as “empathy-in-action.” Feeling with another is helpful, but take the next step and put that empathy into action. All emotions have a pull to act in a certain way. If you feel someone’s pain with them, the action tendency is to do something to relieve their pain. Sometimes that’s a practical action, sometimes it’s emotional comfort, and sometimes it’s both. When you feel empathy and show compassion for others, it builds trust.
Try it now: What barriers do you experience to empathising with others and showing compassion? How can you show compassion to your employees and co-workers in tangible ways?
We hope these tips help you build stronger emotional bonds that help you and your team thrive.