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EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT: ENERGY IS INFECTIOUS

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How much energy do you have at work? Do you feel invigorated and engaged or down and disengaged? Either way, the reason might be your co-workers: they are infecting you with their energy, positive or negative. By Wayne Baker

We ‘catch’ energy through our interactions with people something called ‘relational energy’ – and it affects our performance at work. To understand how this works, think of people in your workplace who buoy you up, who lift your spirits. What do they do? What do they say? Some people are energising because they give off positive vibes. Others energise us because they create genuine connections.

You are a source of relational energy as well as a recipient. When you generate relational energy in the workplace, your performance goes up.

This occurs because people want to be around you, so they are more likely to devote their discretionary time to your projects. They’ll offer new ideas, information and opportunities to you first.

The opposite is also true. If you de-energise others, people won’t go out of their way to work with you or to help you. In the worst case, they might even sabotage you at work.

What can you do to increase relational energy in your workplace? Here are four actions you can take personally and as a leader:

  • Build high-quality connections: Focus on growing and improving high-quality connections. Try taking on a challenge at work with a group of like-minded people.
  • Create energising events: Organise and run events with an explicit focus creating energy, not just delivering content, products or services. Be positive and enthusiastic, and show how much you love your work and the organisation. Aim to have people leave the event abuzz with energy because it’s so contagious.
  • Use tools that promote a ‘giver’ culture: The act of helping someone at work creates energy in the form of positive emotions – the ‘warm glow’ of helping. Receiving help creates energy in the form of gratitude. Gratitude for help received encourages paying it forward and helping others. Practise being a giver and a gracious receiver of help.
  • Try mapping relational energy: Think through which people in your networks energise you, de-energise you, or have little effect on your energy. By visualising or even sketching out how these relationships interact with each other, you can create a type of  ‘energy map’. Energy maps help you figure out where to focus on building high-quality connections, creating energising events, and using tools that create an energising culture.

So if you feel like you have an energy crisis in your organisation, the good news is that you can do something about it by focusing on relational energy – the energy we get and give in our daily interactions. Every action and word, no matter how small, matter in boosting productivity and performance.

© 2016 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp.

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