The glue that binds your business — Lionesses of Africa

by Filipa Carreira

Our relationships determine the quality of our lives. Deep and meaningful relationships are crucial to our mental and physical health. Studies show that people with deep and meaningful relationships are more resilient to burnout and other mental health issues. Did you know that the feeling of loneliness causes the same amount of stress on our cardiovascular system as smoking 20 cigarettes a day? We are living in an era of unprecedented geographical mobility and social change but have our relationship skills kept up with the times? Does it matter? And how does this have any effect on the workplace?

Our expectations of the workplace and our romantic relationships have become ever more complex. Psychotherapist Esther Perel calls this the shift towards an Identity Economy, where we look for our purpose and life’s meaning in our work and or our romantic partner, in other words, our partner and our work determine who we think we are, they are intrinsic to our perceived personhood. We are more virtually connected but physically isolated resulting in a convergence of roles that only adds pressure to our “real life” relationships. We expect from our partner what once a whole village provided and we expect for our career what we use to look for in religion and community, our sense of self. A few generations ago unless you were an artist or an artisan you didn’t pursue your passion through your work. You just did the thing, you got paid and you went home and if you had time, you would pursue the activities and relationships that gave your life purpose, now we expect our work to have meaning and impact. After all, we now view work as an extension of our intellectual selves, an expression of our being.

A couple of generations ago people got a job and that was it for the rest of their lives unless, of course, the factory closed, there was no other reason to change jobs. As we moved from a production-based economy to a service-based one and the workforce became more mobile, people started switching jobs when they felt underappreciated and found better-paying alternatives. Our commitment to the workplace began to wither, like in our personal relationships now we leave not because we are unhappy but because we believe we could be happier somewhere else. So, what makes people happy in the workplace? Much like in our personal lives, what makes us happy at the office is the quality of our relationships! According to the latest Glassdoor survey, 65% of millennials are likely to care more about work culture than salary. Now you might be thinking “this snowflake generation is a bunch of whining spoilt brats!” but it turns out about 50% of over 45s feel the same way. Is it really that surprising that people demand to be treated with respect and dignity in the place where they spend most of their waking hours? It is becoming clear that employees are no longer exclusively driven by pay or work-life balance, successful leaders must focus on bolstering a healthy and positive company culture to be able to hire and retain high-quality talent.

Today, no amount of money, purpose or free food will make up for a toxic work environment. Relationships are harder to measure, harder to sustain, and harder to repair, successful leadership hinges on the ability to make colleagues and employees feel appreciated and valued. Relational Intelligence, how we interact with other people determines our ability to connect, what and who we commit to, and how we compete, collaborate, and create. Going a step further than Emotional Intelligence which reads more like an agreeability checklist, Relational Intelligence is dynamic and takes into account the various continuous feedback loops in our environment allowing for better communication and conflict management focusing on complementarity.

As Relational Intelligence becomes the crux of a healthy and positive work environment and strong company culture, we will have to upgrade our relational skills to polish our conflict mitigation and resolution abilities. Conflict manifests in different forms, the ones we are quicker to identify are the heated argument, table slamming, red faces and yelling, but if the latest wave of quiet quitting has taught us anything that power can come from the bottom up and silent resistance is infectious and effective. Much like when the nagging girlfriend suddenly stops being “so demanding” and takes up working out for no apparent reason Relationship Intelligence speaks to our ability to pick up on the nuances and attitude shifts before these become seemingly intractable pain points. In the face of antagonism, it is much easier to focus on the superficial symptoms and finger-pointing, it requires empathy, kindness, and courage to dig beneath the surface and root out the true causes of conflict, but it is always a worthwhile endeavour. Highly relational intelligent individuals are prepared to engage in this connection, disconnection, and reconnection cycle, making their partners, colleagues, and employees feel respected, valued, and appreciated. Forget “Mean Girls” trust falls, this is how relationships are tested, tried, and strengthened. When rapture is adequately dealt with, we come out to the other side knowing what we can expect from one another we know how far we are willing to go for each other and the relationship. Essentially, we know they have our back allowing us to direct our time and energy outward at other forward-facing challenges fostering growth, creativity, and productivity.

Company culture is not pizza Friday and happy hours, it is how we feel about coming to work and our relationships with the people around us, it is the glue that binds your business.

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