R is for Relatedness – How to Increase Employee Engagement with SCARF

by Ayla Lewis

(Note: this post is part 5 of 7 in the SCARF Series.)

Relatedness is closely linked to trust and it is about whether those around you are ‘friend’ or ‘foe’. The decision about whether someone is part of ‘us’ or ‘them’ happens quickly in the brain and impacts brain functioning–different circuits of the brain are used to think about friends, then the circuits that are used to think about strangers. When you view someone as a foe you feel increased competition, decreased empathy, and may experience withdrawal from that person. When you view someone as a friend you have more empathy for them, you generate the reward response and emotions, and you have greater collaboration.

Dr. David Rock saysOur brain perceives people we have not met as a threat. Once we bond with someone, which can be as simple as a conversation, a handshake, a sharing we generate in that moment what’s called an oxytocin response. if you are working in teams, especially virtual teams, or teams where members are from different cultures, we may need to actively create this bonding experience to create common ground otherwise people may automatically be in that foe state, in that state of thinking someone is outside of their group.

At Happy Brain Science we gather in the middle of our open office every Monday morning to chat about our weekends, meditate together, and share our priorities for the week ahead. This has helped us to build feelings of relatedness and community in our team.

Three Happy Brain Science suggestions for increasing relatedness in the day-to-day at work:

  1. Watering Hole – Make a place where employees gather for food, snacks, a break, a comfy place to sit or even games and entertainment. We are social creatures and giving people a chance to connect and communicate increases relatedness.
  2. Pecha Kucha Presentations – Invite each person on the team to prepare a slideshow of 10 personal images. Each group member shares their presentations, talking about each of the 10 slides for 10 seconds each. With only personal images and nothing about work, Pecha Kucha presentations build trust, and trust is a foundation of relatedness and teamwork. (Click to access our Pecha Kucha template)
  3. Friends at Work – Seek out a friend at work and talk with them about things that are difficult, or things that are going well, for you. Ask them questions and learn about how things are going for them as well. Research strongly suggests that social support is real, effective support—having friends at work increases relatedness and provides a support network for effectively coping with stress.

This week at work, focus on building relationships with your coworkers to increase your sense of relatedness. How does increased relatedness impact your engagement and happiness at work? How does it impact the engagement and happiness of those you work most closely with?

Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter, or by emailing us at Ask.Us@HappyBrainScience.com

With gratitude and compassion,
– Ayla


Resources for the SCARF series: