The decline of social connection and rise of loneliness in the United States has caught the attention of the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, which prompted the publication of a new advisory.
“The harmful consequences of a society that lacks social connection can be felt in our schools, workplaces, and civic organizations, where performance, productivity, and engagement are diminished,” writes U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community released on May 2, 2023. “Given the profound consequences of loneliness and isolation [on individual and societal health], we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make the same investments in addressing social connection that we have made in addressing tobacco use, obesity, and the addiction crisis.”
On Good Friday this year, I found myself in an operating room with my arms literally stretched out like Jesus on the cross as ten medical professionals prepared me for surgery. To my surprise, as a mask was placed over my nose and mouth to administer general anesthesia, I felt grateful rather than scared.
Do you feel like the inner flame that motivates you in your personal and professional life has dimmed? Answering a few questions will provide insight into how you can rekindle your inner light. Before we pose the questions, though, let us share a story that illuminates why contemplating them is so valuable.
Our focus is on the importance of human connection and cultivating a culture of connection in the workplace, but what we’ve learned about connection applies beyond the realm of our work lives. The principles are relevant for individuals, community groups, sports teams, nations and even families. Knowing that a connection deficit negatively affects our own health and well-being, the health of groups and the health of society, we’ve become concerned observing how the pace and stress of life threaten to squeeze out time for supportive, lifegiving relationships and endeavors. Improving connection in the home can lead toward a more fulfilling life and healthier communities, organizations and nations.
Sitting in the historic St. Bartholomew’s Church in Manhattan before the start of the memorial service for Frances Hesselbein, my thoughts turned to one of the last days I spent time with the remarkable woman who had led the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. back from decline decades earlier and transformed it into what Peter Drucker described as “the best-managed organization around.”
If you are seeking to develop a Connection Culture in your workplace, then you need to not only proactively take actions that build connection, but also avoid actions that destroy it. Sometimes, we have blind spots that make it difficult to identify “connection killer” habits.
Yes, it’s true. You may be the most important person in your co-worker’s life.
Recent research shows Americans are spending more time alone following the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. To make up for the time we needed to stay apart during 2020 and 2021, you might think that the pendulum would swing to the other side and we would see people spending even more time together than before. That’s not happening for everyone.
My mind is full. These days there is so much information coming at us around the clock, from so many sources. Plus, I love to learn and assimilate new research findings, stories, and perspectives into the work we are doing on connection and organizational culture. Being an integrative thinker has its strengths. It’s certainly stimulating (and sometimes exhausting). I recognize that a downside, especially for someone consistently advocating for the importance of connection in our work lives and personal lives, is that my natural bent to be in my head can be a source of disconnection.
The image of trees being whipped back and forth during a storm is an appropriate analogy for humans weathering especially stressful seasons in life. It was on my mind as I followed the coverage of Hurricane Ian and the destruction it left in its wake at the same time I was reading new research that came out on rising burnout among physicians. I thought of how those in healthcare have been battered by a fierce hurricane called the Covid-19 pandemic. They faced a powerful and unpredictable foe, one that shifted and adapted as it went along, one that was fatal to some it encountered and left others unscathed. Shaken and tested by what must have felt like an unrelenting storm in the first year, some in healthcare were able to persevere and remain standing strong and some fell. Still others are upright, but for how much longer?
An opportunity exists for leaders and organizations to gain a performance and competitive advantage if they can win the war for talent. A recent conversation I had with Jon Clifton, CEO of The Gallup Organization, reinforced my long-held position that the x-factor in talent acquisition, employee engagement, and employee retention is connection. Fostering an environment in which workers feel connected to the organization, their supervisor, their colleagues, and the work they are doing will enable those organizations to pull further ahead of organizations that lack great jobs.