Lack of Recognition = “Blow to the Head”

jennifer Bjorkman | May-27-10




By: Derek Irvine, Globoforce: Motivation Worldwide- Blog

Some very interesting research has been coming out in multiple sources recently on the work of behavioral economists, results that Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, summarizes as: “the discovery that human decision making is more emotional than rational. … In the world we’re competing in now, solving problems isn’t about spending money. It’s about understanding and managing ideas and talent – and states of mind. … Leaders who can quantify states of mind and make decisions about their constituencies based on that information are the ones who will lead the world.”

What does that mean in the workplace? Neuroscience research out of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found the following (reported in Strategy + Business):

“Although a job is often regarded as a purely economic transaction, in which people exchange their labor for financial compensation, the brain experiences the workplace first and foremost as a social system. … People who feel betrayed or unrecognized at work — for example, when they are reprimanded, given an assignment that seems unworthy, or told to take a pay cut — experience it as a neural impulse, as powerful and painful as a blow to the head. Most people who work in companies learn to rationalize or temper their reactions; they ‘suck it up,’ as the common parlance puts it. But they also limit their commitment and engagement. They become purely transactional employees, reluctant to give more of themselves to the company, because the social context stands in their way.

“Leaders who understand this dynamic can more effectively engage their employees’ best talents, support collaborative teams, and create an environment that fosters productive change. Indeed, the ability to intentionally address the social brain in the service of optimal performance will be a distinguishing leadership capability in the years ahead.”

The truth of this research is reflected in the findings of a new global study on employee engagement conducted by Right Management, which found the top five global engagement drivers to be:

1) I am committed to my organization’s core values
2) Our customers think highly of our products and services
3) My opinions count
4) I have a clear understanding of what is expected of me at work
5) I understand how I can contribute to meeting the needs of our customer

Notice that all five drivers reflect a state of mind. Do you experience these drivers of engagement in your organization or is your work life more like a “blow to the head?”


Originally published on Globoforce: Motivation Worldwide- Blog on December 7, 2009.