In the American workplace, there’s a traditional idea that the best way to praise an employee is strictly through financial rewards - employees receive a regular paycheck, what more could they need? It can even go so far as to say employees who receive recognition in the form of written or oral praise will get “soft” overtime.
For young people searching for jobs today, it’s almost impossible to avoid companies trying to lure them in with office perks like game rooms, massage chairs, and yoga classes. And all these things sound fantastic, especially when you’re fresh out of college dorms, where forty people are sharing three showers and you can hear your next-door neighbor snoring through the wall.
Silicon Valley is particularly notorious for providing employees with a swath of benefits and perks from free meals and snacks every day to in-house barber shops and dental offices. Companies like Facebook and Google draw in thousands of new employees, largely by offering an array of perks that appeal to the generations who have come to expect convenience and comfort.
Younger generations tend to receive a fair amount of criticism for their obsessions with instant-gratification-based systems like social media and video games. There’s this idea that somehow, older generations were wired to be more patient while technology has fundamentally corrupted the young mind beyond repair.
You’ve most likely heard the commonly-held belief that work life and personal life should be distinct and separate. Why should it matter if you enjoy being at work and interacting with your coworkers as long as you can go home and relax at the end of the day? Well, since happiness has become an increasingly popular area of scientific inquiry, more and more research has been produced demonstrating just how important basic happiness can be in many areas of our lives, including at work.
Intuitively, one might assume that monetary incentives are the most effective reward system. People like money, so monetary rewards should increase effort and maximize productivity. Despite this common assumption, research shows that higher rewards don't always lead to more effort and employee engagement. Paradoxically, some studies have found the opposite can happen, a phenomenon known as "incentive reversal."
We’ve all had the life experience where a group activity is going smoothly and morale is high… up until that one person walks in with “negative energy.” It’s like the spell of positivity and efficiency is lifted, and negative emotions spread throughout the rest of the group. How by a single person or small group of people who project their emotions onto the rest of the team, whether it be consciously or subconsciously.
As highly emotional animals, humans pick up on other peoples’ signals like body language and energy levels, and often their own experience will change as a result. This type of mimicry is called emotional contagion, and it can apply to both positive emotions as well as negative ones. In both cases, emotional contagion has important implications when considering effective teamwork strategies and organizational culture in particular.
You know that “warm glow” you feel when you demonstrate an act of kindness without expecting anything in return? Well, a team of researchers discovered that that particular feeling is quite different than when you expect a reward for your kind act.
Our brains are designed to be social. And social relationships have always been at the heart of our survival and our happiness. From humans’ earliest days, we have relied on one another and helped one another and our bodies evolved to reward us for these acts of kindness. Kindness is one of our biggest strengths as humans and was crucial to our survival as a species. In fact, Dr. Daniel Campbell-Meiklejohn, the lead of a recent study published in NeuroImage, shared that “the decision to share resources is a cornerstone of any cooperative society.”
In a rising trend, many Fortune 500 companies have bid adieu to employee performance reviews, deeming them an outdated way to check in with employees. Adobe, GE, and many others have instead moved towards a system of more regular one-on-one check-ins with employees, where they examine their work around specific projects and progress towards development goals. “It’s liberating people,” says Donna Morris, senior vice president of global people resources at Adobe. “It has really helped to create teamwork instead of individualism, which is critical in a creative company.”
Evan Spiegel, millennial and CEO of Snap Inc famously noted of his generation, “We do have a sense of entitlement, a sense of ownership, because after all, this is the world we were born into, and we are responsible for It.”
Saying ‘thank you’ will never go out of style. But when technological innovations seem to make us feel more isolated instead of more connected, how can we turn these simple ‘thank you's’ into ongoing, interactive moments that foster community building?