- September 2, 2019
- Posted by: Jo Johnston
- Categories: Business Continuity, Culture, Leadership, Management Consulting, People, Psychology
Social Psychology in the Workplace
Psychology has always been medically focused. But that’s limiting its definition: psychology is the study of humans. Especially social psychology (a field interested in the whys and ways people interact with one another) holds some great tips that can be applied in the workplace. Social psychology in the workplace is as the name suggests and is being adopted by top businesses as part of HR management and thought-Leaders to encourage workers to achieve their potential as quickly as possible.
Successful businesses have always run on the smooth operation of their employees. If a person was to break down any successful organisation, you’ll find that every organisation, no matter how big or small, has a human heart made of people just like you and me. People, who can be influenced to become happier, more productive, and satisfied with their jobs – something that some businesses’ have targeted in their workplace culture to be rewarded for greater business performance and employee satisfaction.
So here are 4 theories from social psychology that you can take away into your business and start recognising the gaps in your business and taking on some social psychology in the workplace strategies.
1. Reciprocity Principle
Reciprocity is when you respond positively to someone else’s positive actions because you feel pressured to repay others for what they’ve given us. Sometimes, this pressure is so great people respond with even more than what you gave, just to minimise any guilt from accepting the favour in the first place.
This is a very rewarding social behaviour, as reciprocity means that you can cultivate a culture where people are frequently nicer, and more cooperative with each other. Theoretically speaking, this is explained because of the self-interest model: being kind gives you kindness, so people want to be more friendly.
There are obvious applications of this in the workplace. Inside the offices, this can help improve and repair work relationships, cultivate a healthy and happy work culture in your business, and build consensus. Gifts and bonuses to your employees or offers for breakfast and lunch to your fellow colleagues could go a long way, but not as far as a pat on the back and a pathway to their future goals.
Externally, this principle adds a new depth to the importance of gift-giving in negotiations, in building new partnerships as a business, or winning over investors. Reciprocity, like giving out free samples, or bridging business favours might allow you to more easily bridge gaps of alienation and suspicion that may come with a new pitch or a product.
2. Body Language in Contradiction
We are constantly emitting communication signals with our body – it’s just part of how we humans communicate. Unconsciously, we may shift our feet, glance around the room, wave our hands to help us emphasise what we’re trying to say, and this unspoken language can be tapped upon to help us fit in, look more sincere, or convince others.
One easy thing to do is keeping your body language open. Crossing your arms isn’t always a sign of defensiveness like most people assume – instead, it may it’s a self-soother. Some people are basically giving themselves a hug to make themselves feel better, and generally speaking, that doesn’t communicate confidence – so some people would rather you think its defensive. If you want to show your confidence, open up your chest, raise your head high. Standing tall and not slouching shows your most vulnerable points: your neck, your chest area (that holds your heart and lungs). And in non-cavemen speak, by showing these points it shows you’re not intimidated by what’s in front of you. Collappor8 incorporates practice situations into leadership training sessions to help cellular memory to situations. We partner with many leadership and business coaches experienced in helping business culture transformations for large or complex situations. We vet our partners and extend our guarantee to them when they are working on our behalf.
Mirroring is another thing people do. Ever notice that in an engaging discussion, both you and your friend would lean forward simultaneously? Or when you’re in a group of people who’re laughing uproariously to a joke (that you don’t find particularly funny), you may also start laughing just to fit in? Mirroring is a subconscious form of flattery: it means you’re engaged and agree with them, and that makes them more easily accept you. These things can be subtly manipulated if you’re aware enough: smiling when another person is smiling, positioning of your legs, sharing eye-contact… The possibilities go on.
When you invite consultants into your business there is an inherent tradition of employee push-back stemming of fear of redundancy or job insecurity. Whilst this is a huge reoccurring strategy for management consultants like Collappor8 it is the last resort, and that the first people to cut are the trouble-makers and those that serve self-interest to the detriment of the business and its goals. In our experience, there are some business owners that buckle to the pressure that can come from bringing in external consultants. The firing of consultants is rare, so Collappor8 always tries to see the readiness of the decision-makers to receive research, statistics and reports on the health of their business and then act on them. Experts can assist businesses devise social psychology in the workplace strategies.
3. Priming in the Workplace
When you’re exposed to something that then unconsciously influences your response to something else, that’s called Priming. For example, if you’re given a warm colour, you might feel a lot more welcomed than a whole office painted in icy blue. Social psychology in the workplace suggests that priming would be very effective for increasing productivity in the office. Business interiors are more than walls, it is a systematic approach to branding your staff and engaging them with your brand to support your external efforts. Engaging business psychology consultants, interior designers and business interior FF&E specialists to ensure you appropriately apply social psychology in the workplace.
There are many types of priming – perceptual, semantic, conceptual, repetitive, cultural and kindness are just a few examples. However, they do inform us that we, as people, can be unconsciously influenced by contextual and environmental cues. For example, in designing office space, business owners can take care to provide decorating that strives to inspire productivity and positivity for their employees, like inspirational quotes, or warm, open décor. Semantic priming can also help in communications, wording emails carefully with goal-oriented words and eliminating discouraging words to try to elicit your desired response.
By purely thinking in terms of manipulating the context environment, there are endless possibilities to how a business can try to influence their work culture to become what they desire it to be. Leaving it to chance is no strategy at all.
“Drive Culture like you would Profit”
Power Paradox at Work
There’s a common-sense that holding power, like leadership positions, changes people. There’s a name for this concept in social psychology that’s applicable for businesses, called the ‘Power Paradox’.
The power paradox can be easily explained. People usually gain power by using a lot of positive traits that help the people around them, like empathy, collaboration, openness, fairness, and sharing. Such traits help foster trust and relationships with their colleagues, and that trust from their colleagues usually helps vault them into power. However, it doesn’t stop there. Many people after feeling powerful, and start to enjoy their position of privilege would have those previously positive traits fade away from their conduct. Therefore, these powerful people are then more likely than others in the business to act rude and selfish or start unethical behaviour.
This phenomenon was therefore termed as the ‘Power Paradox’, where people rise because of good qualities, but their behaviour worsens while doing so. New leaders are more vulnerable to losing their good attributes than older ones, and it can be crucial for both leaders, and the teams they manage, to be aware of these changing power dynamics. That’s because the first way of combating this is simply awareness – of your changes in their character, and therefore practice empathy and generosity in turn. This is the other facet of the power paradox: that by giving your power away and empowering others, you, in turn, help yourself grow more powerful.
Businesses being aware of this could provide leadership training, or give advice to new leaders on how to handle the responsibilities of their positions towards their team. By doing so, businesses can help further healthy work cultures – for both leaders, and those who follow.
IN ESSENCE social psychology in the workplace plays an important part in creating a culture that is productive. Why not have a culture by design? Head shrink your workspace by hiring a team of consultants that can help you maximise enagement in your business and brand.