Social Connections in the Workplace: Why They Matter

Today’s Occasional Read:
Julianne Holt-Lunstad
Fostering Social Connection in the Workplace
American Journal of Health Promotion, v. 35, 2018
https://doi.org/10.1177/0890117118776735a

Every once in a while it’s nice to keep things relatively simple. I have read and written about some very complicated articles since I started this blog. Today, I decided to take a look at a short article about why we need social connections in the workplace.

This topic is timely, of course, as so many people (including nearly all my colleagues in the library) are working from home right now because of the coronavirus. This topic is also timely because I am serving on a committee at my library that is examining workplace culture and establishing a set of cultural norms for our organization. Since I volunteered for this committee, I have been asking myself a lot why workplace cultural norms are so important. This article was a good reminder of some of the answers to that question.

The science around social connections and relationships is pretty clear about their benefits. Social isolation and loneliness, each on their own, have been found to lead to physical and mental health problems, premature cognitive decline, and other things that make life unpleasant for people. However, it is those two factors working in tandem, meaning that a person is both socially isolated (lacks a social support structure) AND lonely (lacks sufficiently meaningful social connections), that really do some serious damage, especially if the person is experiencing this at work and it impacts the time and energy they can spend developing social connections outside of the office.

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“Get out of the bitter barn and play in the hay”

Citation:
Hansjörg Znoj, Features of Embitterment, in Embitterment: Societal, Psychological, and Clinical Perspectives 5 (Michael Linden & Andreas Maercker eds. 2011).

The TV show Friends has resurged like no one’s business recently. The quote in the title of this post comes from that show, and it was Phoebe Buffay who said it in “The One With The Prom Video,” which happens to be the first episode of the show that I ever saw. That was the episode that had the whole Chandler/Joey gold bracelet thing, and, of course, the prom video that started the whole Ross and Rachel relationship.

That quote comes to mind whenever I perceived bitterness in myself and others, which I promise is relevant here.

Anyway, this is the first time in this experiment that I have analyzed a book chapter instead of an article. It was helpful in terms of understanding the psychological construct of bitterness, which has been on my mind a lot lately. However, and perhaps more importantly, it showed that book chapters rarely can stand alone in a rewarding way.

In other words, I may know more about embitterment than I did before, but I’m still not really sure what to do about it.

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Law and Life are Complicated and Difficult

Citation:
Ana Aliverti, The Wrongs of Unlawful Immigration, Criminal Law and Policy, June 2017, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 375–391, https://link-springer-com/article/10.1007/s11572-015-9377-y .

Yesterday I participated in the first in a series of facilitated dialogues about immigration. I volunteer for these facilitated dialogues here at the law school every year because it gives students who are taking the Lawyer as Facilitator class the chance to practice their skills on real humans who are talking about difficult things.

The interesting thing for me about this experience is that I HATE hard conversations and confrontation and differences of opinion. As with many people who have domineering parents and/or self esteem issues, every disagreement becomes, in my mind, a personal attack. And yet, I still volunteer to do this every year. I always hope it will help me get better at and feel better about having difficult conversations in relatively safe spaces, and yet every year I feel just as inept at doing this as I ever did.

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Emotional Labor in Academia: Burdens, Metrics, and Compensation

Citation:
Brandi Lawless (2018) Documenting a labor of love: emotional labor as academic labor, Review of Communication, 18:2, 85-97, DOI: 10.1080/15358593.2018.1438644

I started reading what is considered to be the seminal treatise on emotional labor, Arlie Russell Hochschild’s The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, a few months ago. This book so resonated with me that I found I wanted to note and respond to about 10 things on every page. Since that takes a lot of time and energy, I am only about 30 pages in so far.

The main thing this book has awakened in me is a strong interest in understanding what emotional labor is (essentially, it is the regulation and suppression of your own emotions in response to customer needs and expectations when performing a service-oriented job) and how it shapes workplace culture and interactions.

Brandi Lawless’s 2018 article focuses on the impact of emotional labor in academia, which is a subject I have been thinking about throughout my career, especially in the last year or so. Although Professor Lawless is a communications professor and not a librarian, I recognized myself and my librarianship practice in which she writes here.

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“Subjective Senses” in Psychology

Citation:
Fernando L. Gonzales Rey, Subjectivy and Discourse: Complementary Topics for a Critical Psychology, Culture and Psychology, 2019, Vol. 25(2) 178-194, DOI: 10.1177/1354067X18754338.

I am not a psychologist, but I have long been interested in how personality, thoughts, motivations, and emotions affect behavior, especially regarding how we interact with and respond to others. This comes partially from my own experience in psychotherapy, through which I learned a lot about myself and why certain people and life situations create in me a lot of anxiety, confusion, frustration, and anger.

I am also working on a paper right now in which I am exploring the acculturation process of foreign students, and how the acculturation experience can shape the student’s experience with scholarly research during their time abroad. During my research for this paper, I found myself drawn to articles about culture and subjectivity. That is why I decided to pick this article for today’s Daily Read.

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