Comstock's magazine 0419 - April 2019 - Page 40

n WELLNESS periment, Ozcelik and Barsade also examined the “emotional culture” of the workplace. “If a lonelier person is in a culture of higher compassion and love, that helps to reduce the negative effect on commitment,” says Barsade. “Even if you feel lonely, if you’re fundamentally surrounded by kind and affectionate people, this is a tide that raises all boats.” Ozcelik suggests that since there is a clear link to job per- formance and lonely employees become less engaged, manag- ers actively monitor loneliness. “This will require some institu- tional efforts,” he says, such as folding this into HR procedures. He advises something of a routine (and voluntary) “loneliness check,” where the employee is asked questions like, How often do you feel as if no one understands you? Since the earlier takeaway of Ozcelik’s research is that lonely people are effectively invisible in the office, he rec- ommends activities that will put them with a positive light. Don’t just do a random Taco Tuesday, but instead celebrate the success of all employees, and provide everyone an oppor- tunity to showcase their non-work personality. The point is to both change how coworkers view the lonely person (making him or her less invisible) and short-circuit the negative cycle of loneliness. In December 2018 Ozcelik asked Sacramento State busi- ness students to brainstorm how managers could help lonely 40 | April 2019 employees, based on his above guidelines. He had them act out the ideas and film short videos, and then he shared the skits with attendants at the College of Business Administration’s annual film festival. Most of the ideas had one common fac- tor: giving the lonely employee more interesting responsibil- ities, and casting them in a positive light. “This helps them think, Hey, you know what, I’m not that much of a loser. I can actually contribute. I can do something for this organization.” (Meanwhile, Cacioppo is developing a packaged program to help organizations combat loneliness, and her team is testing it with the U.S. Army. She hopes to have it ready for roll-out later this year.) More than anything, Ozcelik wants to see more of a con- versation about loneliness. All of us get lonely from time to time. And none of us talk about it. “If you’re a smart manag- er, don’t just say, ‘It’s not my problem, talk to your shrink,’” says Ozcelik. “It’s not a personal problem. It’s a managerial problem.” n Jeff Wilser is the author of Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life. His work has appeared in print or online in GQ, New York Mag- azine, Esquire and Mental Floss, among others. On Twitter @Jeff Wilser.