A no-brainer

Could your workplace be killing you? Are you destroying your brain and don’t realise it? Some interesting (life threatening) findings are converging in one place: the workplace. This is disturbing given the frequency with which I hear about stress in the workplace, 99% of which is due to people; more specifically, their behaviours. Like smoking, destructive behaviours not only kill the “smoker” but also the “passive smokers” around them. Much of the stress I hear about is manager/staff interactions.

The facts:

  • People spend 30-40% of time stressed/frustrated – 20% of this is anger. This compromises pre-frontal cortex functioning (increasing risk of errors and accidents) and immunity – our defense against any and all disease (Dr Tom Mulholland – Healthy Thinking)
  • Those who speak to me about these problems tell me their general mood is negatively influenced as well as sleep – proven to be associated with elevated cortisol
  • Elevated cortisol is directly linked with brain shrivelling and shrinkage. Key to brain health and longevity is the size of the midbrain’s hippocampus (memory centre).  A large hippocampus is associated with general brain health achieved by simple lifestyle changes within 8 weeks. (Dr Majid Fotuhi – The Memory Cure). He cites research directly linking a smaller hippocampus with dementia symptoms including Alzheimer’s
  • Mid-manager stress exceeds that of the top brass. (Research conducted at Stanford University – James Gross and colleagues. Their advice includes  learning stress-reducing social regulation skills)
  • Blunted emotions (from common workplace experience) lead to boredom and disconnection. Boredom is defined as “an aversive state of wanting but being unable to engage in satisfying activity.” (Prof Mark Fenskey in Bored to Death)

On the other hand, workplaces where people feel valuable, engaged, stimulated, challenged (not mollycoddled) and understood deliver up to 25% more brain functionality: creativity and resourcefulness.  www.neuroleadership.org

The workplace can either kill you or contribute to a long, healthy life.

The cure? Relationship exercises and a performance partnership approach between managers and staff whereby the success challenge is shared/co-owned; where people are able to control or at least influence factors that contribute to success. Setting goals for people who believe they have no control over success  is not only harmful; we now know it can be fatal. Tapping into the collective wisdom of people is not only a healthy antidote but may well be the  way to perform to true potential in any given situation.

Google the “new” Science of Collective Intelligence (Chris Chabris) which is of course not new at all, and has been proven for decades by smart companies maximising return from payroll investment by using all the brains in the company (not just the titled few.) Or check out the evidence provided by JRA Best Places to Work where people engagement is linked with higher performance across the key financial metrics.

It’s really a no-brainer. Ignore the obvious and your brain (and your business) may well be one of diminishing returns.


About Cherri Holland

Fascinated with business, brains and how to use the brains on the payroll to make business buzz.
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