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Month: July 2021

Praise and the Brain:

Posted in: July 11, 2021 By: Bernadette Marie Wilson

Improve Employee Performance with Praise

The more that we learn about the human brain, the more that we are astounded by its complexity. One of the brain’s interesting factors is how social interaction affects physical functions and overall attitudes. Research has shown that the power of praise creates a positive response that extends to enhanced feelings of competence, improved motor skill performance, and increases motivation. These reactions transcends all age groups and genders. Research results demonstrate that when you add praise to employees in a work environment, there is a defined improvement in general attitude, which translates to better customer service.

Science Shows Humans Love Praise

A recent study measured the brain scans of participants who received compliments. The results showed that the praise activated the same areas of the brain that create positive feelings when someone receives a physical reward such as the gift of money. Examples of this often happen when individuals do “good deeds” for others and receive compliments and praise while refusing any monetary reward.  

Praise Helps to Improves Skills

Compliments in the workplace can go farther than most might think. Enhanced learning and improved performance can occur when encouragement and praise is given to co-workers. Something as simple as a compliment can bring a positive outlook that the brain not only wants, but remembers. For example, a 2012 study showed that those who received praise when trying out a new skill allowed the brain to remember the skill and accomplish it better. Since learning occurs during sleep, the compliments of “skill consolidation” during the striatum activation resulted in improvements in the activity. 

Happy Employees Can Mean Better Customer Service

Although we still have a lot more to find out about the mysteries of the human brain, positive reinforcement can raise the level of employee fulfillment carries great importance. Establishing a company environment that involves staff recognition by praise and compliments can spread to improved customer interaction. In today’s competitive world, customer service excellence has become a high-level priority. Organizations that demonstrate a positive approach to their clients are also achieving the most success.  A Gallup poll title of “Engage Your Employees to See High Performance and Innovation” validates the concept of praise and content employees. The results of the poll show a 147% earnings per share increase over competitors for companies that have happier staff. 

Customer Service Rules

A PWC survey indicated that 80% of customers stated that a company’s agents have the most significant impact on the customer experience. Those surveyed said that areas such as knowledgeable, fast help, and friendly representatives rated as some of the most critical factors. Another survey done by Salesforce showed that 91% of customers said good service would make them more likely to purchase from a company again. Yet another survey done by Gartner was so crutial that they entitled the report “Customer Experience is the New Battlefield.” This survey showed that 89% of business competition is now based on the level of service delivered to customers and not just on the services and products offered. 

Valuing Employees

Just as the job landscape has made some dramatic shifts over the last few years, so has the approach to maintaining customer service excellence. While it might sound like common sense that compliments would result in more content employees, managers have often overlooked this one simple way to “light up the brain.” In a business environment, words do matter, and with a small amount of praise, a company can witness improved motivation and attitudes. A Harvard studyshowed that managers that focused on employee strengths had over double the worker engagement as those businesses that paid more attention to employee weaknesses. When compliments are combined with requests for feedback (rather than criticism) staff feel that they are more valued. 

Psychotherapist and relationship expert Rachel Sussman indicates that compliments are a universal human need: “People just want to be recognized and appreciated for the good that they do. It makes them feel really good about that person who complimented and about themselves.” This philosophy carries over into all aspects of life and is especially important in the work environment. 

Cognitive Reframing: A tool to mitigate Workplace Stress

Posted in: July 9, 2021 By: Bernadette Marie Wilson

Stress in the workplace can emanate from a multitude of factors. The precise etiology of workplace stress can be difficult to pinpoint due to the complexity and diversity of modern organizations. However, when left unchecked, stress can affect employee performance, team interactions, and the overall success of an organization. Numerous reports have documented the physical and mental health hazards resulting from chronic stress.

Benefits of Cognitive Reframing

One of the most successful approaches to circumventing the highly toxic stress conditions that can manifest in the workplace is “cognitive reframing.”

This technique helps individuals cognitive performance by: 

1) recognizing the stress for what it is (an emotional response to real or imagined factors); 

2) better understanding the natural ways our brains can turn situations into destructive thinking processes or positive opportunities; 

3) teaching us systems to realign our interpretation of circumstances (Cognitive reframing), allowing us to take charge of events rather than merely responding emotionally, and hence; 

4) seeing the world and events as they are; and 

5) increasing the accuracy of our response and the likelihood of success. 

Examining the Stress Response

One of the foundational elements of cognitive reframing is first understanding why and how humans react the way we do.  The human body is designed to respond to any form of stress with emotional, physical, cognitive, behavioral, and psychological “fight or flight” reactions. These automatic responses have had evolutionary survival benefits when stressors were encountered in the wild; however, in the modern workplace these responses are less helpful.  Indeed, one might be surprised by the extensive list of harmful responses to stress that can occur in the workplace, essentially wreaking havoc with team dynamics, and creating a dysfunctional work environment.  

Stress Distortion as a Coping Mechanism

Recognizing that stress can be based on a perception of a condition, and is not necessarily based on logic or the actual details of the situation is a first step in being able to reframe a situation or event.  The human brain continues to astound in its abilities and functions; however, part of its most basic purpose is survival. The resulting outcome can take the form of cognitive distortions in a stressful situation. Some of the most common distortions may be recognizable when correlated in a work environment:

  • Filtering to focus on only one negative portion of a situation.
  • Thinking in a polarized manner so that it’s believed something is all bad or all good.
  • Overgeneralizing by using a single event or incident to create an overly broad conclusion.
  • A “jump to conclusion” attitude based on an individual situation or behavior.
  • Minimizing or magnifying a situation or condition.
  • Looking at a situation from a purely emotional standpoint.
  • Catastrophe assumption that there has been a disaster.
  • Blaming others for all aspects of outcomes. 

Work-Related Stress Has a Cost

Companies of all sizes have been known to downplay the importance of stress in the workplace. Management may take the philosophy that stress is just part of business today, refuse to accept that a condition is stressful, or worse yet, get rid of the staff members trying to bring attention to unhealthy problems even when they might have solutions. details some sobering facts about work-related stress:

  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress
  • US businesses lose up to $300 billion yearly as a result of workplace stress.
  • Stress causes around one million workers to miss work every day.
  • Only 43% of US employees think their employers care about their work-life balance.
  • Depression costs $51 billion due to absenteeism and $26 billion in treatment costs annually.
  • Work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly.

Cognitive Reframing Helps to Rectify Distortions

Understanding the value of cognitive reframing begins by recognizing that our brains may use certain distorted methods of perception that may not be entirely healthy in the modern workplace. In addition, unconscious attitudes can turn a favorable situation into something perceived as negative simply by focusing on it too much. In essence, it’s “thinking gone wrong,” and when allowed to continue unfettered, destructive thoughts can spiral into highly stressful conditions. Distorted thinking can be irrational and unhelpful, and in the workplace, the behaviors and attitudes can negatively affect everyone’s success. 

Therapists implement cognitive reframing techniques to assist people in identifying the unhealthy mindsets that may come naturally and put them to better use with more positive attitudes. This approach is used with overly optimistic and overly pessimistic individuals, as both extremes can cause stress when expected results are not attained. 

Cognitive Reframing in the Workplace

Using cognitive reframing in the workplace allows one to develop and utilize a healthy life skill on the job, and in so doing will interpret situations with greater clarity and experience interactions with enhanced insight and nuance. Cognitive reframing empowers an individual to examine where the positive or negative thoughts exist so that they can control their response and act thoughtfully, rather than allowing old habits to persist. Mastering the art of cognitive reframing does take time and focus; however, using it as a tool can shift the thinking process so that there is more beneficial life impact and overall work-life satisfaction. 

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