Years ago, I worked on a very difficult project. For one year, I put in long hours at the office and even when I was home my mind was on the challenges to be overcome. It crowded out time for family and friends. My performance failed to reflect the effort being put in. After a year, I lost hope the project would be embraced by enough key stakeholders that it could meet its objectives, and eventually I left the firm because my health was suffering.
Although it was a painful experience, I learned a huge life lesson: we are hardwired for human connection and when we crowd out time for connection, it sabotages our performance, happiness and health.
Looking back on the experience, I now see that I had been lonely. You can be surrounded by other people and interact with them throughout the day and still feel lonely. When you are in an environment that makes you feel controlled by others or you feel they are indifferent to you one of the consequences can be loneliness. Why does this matter in the workplace? People who are lonely are more prone to self-defeating behaviors. They lose enthusiasm, energy and optimism. They make poorer decisions. Loneliness, especially during times of high stress, frequently leads to ill health, including manifestations of ill emotional health such as anxiety and/or depression.
Today, America and other democracies around the world are experiencing an epidemic of loneliness, this according to research studies which were further supported by research released by the insurance company Cigna earlier this year. Cigna surveyed 20,000 U.S. adults using the 20-question, scientifically-validated UCLA Loneliness Scale. The average score was above the score that is considered to be lonely.
A curious thing about loneliness is that oftentimes we don’t know we’re lonely. That was certainly the case with me. If you had asked me if I was lonely, I would have said no. And yet, if I had taken the UCLA Loneliness Scale during that season of my life, I’m certain I would have scored in the lonely range. Given our tendency to overlook or downplay these feelings, loneliness is the #1 blind spot that is sabotaging people’s performance and holding them back from achieving their career hopes and dreams.
I believe loneliness is a primary reason so many people are struggling today. If you suspect this may apply to you, your family or friends, or the people you lead at work, join me from 2:00-3:00 pm Eastern on Thursday, July 12, 2018, for a free webinar I’m leading for the Association of Talent Development titled, “The Superpower of Human Connection and Perils of Isolation.” As part of the webinar, we will offer free resources and a hold a drawing to win copies of my bestselling book, Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Share Identity, Empathy and Understanding at Work.
I’ll also share some best practices and inspiring stores about leaders who created cultures that connected people and achieved great things.
Previously published by the Association for Talent development at TD.org