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The holiday season is here. While rest is undoubtedly and necessarily a priority for most of us this year, the holidays can be a stressful time for many. The bustle of Christmas gift shopping and the logistics of family trips and get-togethers can eat away immense energy. Then, once the gatherings have begun, await the universally dreaded conversations arising when someone unwittingly raises a political opinion that divides the family dinner table.
Who else is tired? At the beginning of 2022, we were all in a rush to return to normal. We speculated about what the ‘new normal’ might look like, we rushed full-speed back into work, we filled up our calendars again, all in an attempt to make up the time we lost in the previous two years. While 2022 has seen us regain the ‘normal’ we missed, and certainly engage in enough activity to make up the lost time, it has also left many of us feeling totally depleted.
On top of the fatigue that is characteristic of this time of year, it is important to remember that we are still carrying the emotional burden of the trauma, grief and confusion of the last two years. Our full calendars may have distracted us from this trauma, but they in no way eliminate it. Busy schedules might make up the time that was lost, but they don’t heal the grief of the loss.
The human being is a tribal creature. We operate as a ‘we’ far more reliably than we operate as an ‘I’, and our compulsion for conformity is consistently stronger than our impulse towards individuality. This revelation has been key to the last century of psychological findings, and offers vital insight to the social and trends of our day – and how we might influence them.
Intuitively, we all know we operate as a group. Anyone who has been caught up in the energy of a sports match or immersed in the atmosphere of a concert has witnessed firsthand the striking power of the herd. The group’s influence on the individual has been proved over and over in psychological studies, often to rather comical effects.
Good news: human beings are better than we think. Finding ways to motivate people has bewildered leaders for centuries. Long gone are the days of motivating people by the ‘stick’, with the psychological findings surrounding the effects of punishment expelling it from the dominant paradigm. Leaders for the last few decades have relied heavily on the dangled ‘carrot’ as a motivator, or in other words, rewards and incentives offered to people who perform in the desired way. However, research increasingly suggests that the psychology of the incentive is more counterproductive than we think.
Despite our protestations otherwise, we all have a conformity compulsion. If we sense that the herd is going in a particular direction, we instinctively fear being left behind or stranded. Part of this is likely a hangover from our tribal past as humans.
The compulsion to mimic and copy others is deeply rooted in our need to belong. By complying with social norms and collectivist views, we gain the acceptance of the tribe. Breaking social norms or dissenting is dangerous as it can see us expelled from the group. Or at the very least, shamed and embarrassed.
Hybrid work is underway. Incentivising the return to workplaces has been a struggle for leaders as, for many workers, the freedom and flexibility offered by remote work makes it a high priority. The set of challenges that faces leaders, however, is not simply finding the right incentive to get workers back to the office. Rather, the hybrid work world has created a new set of priorities in employees regarding both their teams and their leaders.
Microsoft recently released a trends report, highlighting the statistics and numbers that emerged from research into workplace relations within hybrid work models.
Here are 3 key insights from their findings.
There are few things more frustrating than an opponent who won’t budge. We’ve all experienced those conversations with a voter on the other side of politics or a friend who is endlessly stubborn, in which any amount of evidence is insufficient in moving their position. Our natural impulse is to do just this: begin big in our persuasive efforts, believing that a barrage of information and evidence will knock someone from their position instantly. But, contrary to our aim the result of this approach is usually the other’s deeper entrenchment in their beliefs and a defensiveness that inhibits any further dialogue.
Far from being the rationally operating, pragmatic agents we like to believe we are, more often than not our decisions arise from the seat of our emotions. Our sense of certainty in reaching conclusions and making choices is far more connected to our impulses, emotional reactions and bodily sensations than we think. Rather than being quickly overridden by rational analysis, our emotions are a driving force in our behaviour, and are often the surest guarantee of our response.
Everybody wants a diverse team. Recent years have seen diversity become a new priority for businesses, often above other values – and for good reason! While quotas are a matter of some controversy, the contemporary push for diversity leads to some great results.
Psychologist Irving Janis argues that the lack of diversity in a group insulates it from outside opinion and convinces members over time that the group’s judgment on important issues must be right. These kinds of groups, Janis suggests, share “an illusion of invulnerability and a willingness to rationalize away possible counter-arguments to the group’s position.”
We all like to believe we put our mind over matter. Overall, we are rational agents with free will who have control over our bodies, impulses and sensations. However, more and more studies are emerging that prove this belief to be far from the truth.
Researchers across disciplines and cultures are showing that our bodies are far more involved in our thinking than we like to believe. Our cognitive processes are embedded in a system that involves various parts of the rest of our body, from our heart to our gut.