Comstock's magazine 0419 - April 2019 - Page 37

raised, you might think they’re mocking you.” You misinter- pret their body language. “So in a business negotiation … if the person is lonely, you can forget about a deal for the day.” THE LONELY OFFICE SPACE So does this “lonely brain” impact our ability to get things done at work? Ozcelik and his study co-author, Sigal Barsade of Wharton University of Pennsylvania, took UCLA’s Loneliness Scale and tweaked it for the workplace, asking employees to agree or disagree with statements such as, “There is no one I can turn to in this organization.” For their “laboratory” they used two large organizations in Sacramento — both a private company (in tech services) and a public municipality, which ensured a broad range of professions. Their study spanned 672 employees across 143 work groups that included engineers, truck drivers, managers and top-level executives. Ozcelik and Barsade isolated two key variables: loneli- ness and job performance. Levels of loneliness were deter- mined through self-assessments (using a modified UCLA Loneliness Scale) and peer-assessments (asking people if their coworker “seems to be lonely at work”). Productivity was measured by a top-down analysis of managers evaluat- ing staff. Ozcelik found a “strong correlation” between the two, even after controlling for other variables like age, gen- der, education and organizational tenure (though notably not compensation). The lonelier the employee, the worse he or she performed. Specifically, the “effect size” — a measure that statisticians use to gauge the impact of one variable on another — was 0.3, meaning that the impact was, in plain English, “medium to high.” And it wasn’t due to chance. Yet was it casual? That’s a higher bar for researchers to hurdle. They time-lagged the study, meaning that they first measured loneliness, and then job-performance six weeks later. “We cannot confirm causal- ity,” Ozcelik and Barsade caution in the study. “There is a pos- sibility, for example, that poorer performance leads employees to be isolated from their coworkers, leading to greater loneli- ness, although we would argue that the preponderance of past theory and empirical work operates in the other direction.” Ozcelik attributes the drop in performance to two distinct mechanisms. The first is anchored around the psychological theory of “social exchange.” In the Sacramento study, they also measured employees’ “affective commitment” to an organiza- tion. (Do they feel emotionally connected to the group?) Lone- lier employees were less engaged. Imagine that you work for a company with 10,000 employees, where you feel alienated from the eight coworkers in your department. As Ozcelik explains it, “Simply because those eight people are not close to you, you Who is keeping you connected? Enable your team to focus on core projects and strategic initiatives, instead of the day-to-day operations. Around The Clock IT Support Business Continuity Industry Expertise Predictable Cost Disaster Recovery Learn more at, Learn more at, Call us at 916-830-9460 April 2019 | 37