The Neuroscience of Trust

/The Neuroscience of Trust

The Neuroscience of Trust

Management behaviors that foster employee engagement

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Read the full article at: hbr.org

If the word “oxytocin” isn’t familiar to you, you should get to know it or, more importantly, get to know its effects.  They can make a big difference in you and in your business.

Oxytocin is a substance known in rodents “to signal that another animal was safe to approach.”  In other words, it’s the trust chemical in rats and, as it turns out, in humans, too.  According to Paul Zak, an economics, psychology, and management professor, developing a high-trust environment could mean “higher productivity, better-quality products, and increased profitability.”

“In my research, I’ve found that building a culture of trust is what makes a meaningful difference. Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies. They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance.”

Zak’s data backs up these claims. “Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:

  • 74% less stress
  • 106% more energy at work
  • 50% higher productivity
  • 13% fewer sick days
  • 76% more engagement
  • 29% more satisfaction with their lives
  • 40% less burnout
  • 50% more…planned to stay with their employer over the next year
  • 88% more…would recommend their company…as a place to work
  • 70% more aligned with their companies’ purpose…”

Not a bad day’s work for one little chemical.

The best part of this article is that Zak identifies “eight management behaviors that foster trust. These behaviors are measurable and can be managed to improve performance.”  They include:

  • Recognize excellence.
  • Give people discretion in how they do their work.
  • Share information broadly.
  • Show vulnerability.

There you have it. Specific, measurable ways to improve trust in your company. Neuroscience?  Yes.  Rocket science?  No.  The list of behaviors appears to be as much common sense as scientific data.  Management gurus (albeit without this specific data) have been touting the benefits of trust in the workplace for years.  Simply, trust is good for business.

Zak sums it up, “Ultimately, you cultivate trust by setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to see it through, and getting out of their way…High-trust companies hold people accountable but without micromanaging them. They treat people like responsible adults.”

Just the thing we leaders want for ourselves, and just the thing our employees want from us.

 Contact us and we can help you understand and develop the kind of leadership and work environment that fosters trust.

About the Author:

Marsha Caldwell
Marsha Caldwell enjoys helping clients envision, lead and implement change that benefits the business and provides employees with opportunities to do meaningful, creative work. She believes clarity and clear, consistent messaging are a vital part of the journey to sustainable change. Marsha spends a good bit of her time looking for the “perfect” word and trying not to take herself too seriously.

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