Bridging the Gap, Improving the Emotional Connection at Work
Bridging the Gap, Improving the Emotional Connection at Work

Overwork, anxiety and lack of challenge and recognition has colored the overall emotional connection of workers to their jobs during the economic recession of the past few years, according to a Towers Perrin study. Workers’ attitudes are going to need more than just an economic recovery to emerge feeling positive about their work life.

Here are some pointers gleaned from the study on how to bridge the gap between how workers feel and how managers perceive them to feel—and how to help workers plug into a more positive emotional connection to their jobs.

Focus on ways to build self-esteem in your workers. The study showed that workers can feel intensely positive about their jobs from the self-esteem they get through feeling connected and competent in their work. While that ought to be obvious, the managers in the study predicted that this would matter little.

Developing skills and a career path are critical. In his book More Than a Cog, author David Baron urges workers to envision themselves on a career path, regardless of their “job,” as the critical first step to achieving superior performance. The survey results reinforce that message while showing that management seems to undervalue this factor.

Do more to build in recognition in your workplace. The Towers Perrin study indicates that we still don’t “get” the importance of recognition in employee retention and performance. The managers in the study predicted that this factor would be only half as important as it was to the workers. Part of the problem may be that our recognition efforts are misdirected. Effective recognition is positive, immediate and specific about what is being praised. But many recognition programs fail to meet these tests, leading managers to underestimate the value of recognition to their workers.

The future isn’t as important as you think. Workers are concerned about the future, but not nearly as much as managers expected. Again, it’s not clear what you can do about this issue, but be careful not to telegraph too much emphasis on the future—in either direction.

You’re not as important as you think, either. And that’s good. While the workers ranked management as a negative factor, it was one of many. Managers, however, predicted that management would have been much more important—on the negative side! So while you expect to bear the brunt of your employees’ negative feelings toward work, they may be cutting you more slack than you realize.