By: Emily Jarrett – Business Psychologist, Good&Co’s Psychometrics Team
Good&Co’s psychometrics team recently conducted an independent study looking at associations between workplace relationships, personality characteristics and personal well-being.
Recent research from Totaljobs found that three out of five employees (60%) feel lonely at work, and that this has negative effects on their self-esteem, stress levels and sleep quality. In terms of the effects on an organization, loneliness increases the amount of sick leave taken and, for some employees, is a major contributing factor leading up to them quitting their jobs. Instead of reaching out for support in these cases, many such individuals report being uncomfortable confiding in anyone about being lonely, often due to the fear of it negatively impacting their career, or being embarrassed about the issue.
An independent study carried out by Good&Co’s psychometrics team as part of the ongoing validation of our personality quizzes explored the associations between the quality of respondents’ workplace relationships and personal well-being, as well as personality characteristics, using a sample of 301 participants. Several meaningful relationships were discovered, many of which tie in directly with the findings reported by Totaljobs.
The results of our study concluded that employees who have strong friendships with their colleagues tend to feel a greater sense of well-being, in particular feeling both more energized and more at ease in the workplace. The same effect was found in individuals who perceive that their peers value their talent and input at work. Looking at Totaljobs’ research, this likely relates to the finding that approximately two thirds of people who are lonely at work feel that it negatively impacts their stress levels.
But how do personality characteristics play into these associations? Our Good&Co team found that people who have a strong sense of self-belief – who are empathic and perceive their life as part of a greater whole – tend to have stronger and more meaningful workplace relationships. Whether it’s the personality characteristics that enable better relationships or the positive relationships that encourage these traits is not certain – it’s likely a bit of both – but it seems that those with more positive views of themselves tend to experience better work relationships.
“Strikingly, Totaljobs found that the majority of employees who are lonely feel that their employer does not do enough to combat the problem.”
In addition to this, the more extraverted someone is, the more positive the report on their relationships. It is likely that extraverts find it easier than introverts to form and maintain relationships, as they are energized by social interaction and therefore often come across as friendlier and more open to new relationships than their counterparts. Overall, this difference highlights the importance of making the effort to be inclusive and taking into consideration the individual personalities within a team.
Another interesting observed association is that people who are prone to experiencing depression feel that their colleagues are less accepting of diversity. Amongst employees who report feeling lonely, discrimination is reported as the cause for 21% of them. When people feel excluded they begin to believe that they are not worthy of attention from others, thereby further preventing any sense of belonging and reinforcing their loneliness. Unsurprisingly, these people also report feeling more vulnerable at work. The relationship seems to work both ways as 23% of people who are lonely at work cite mental health problems as the main reason.
When we examine our findings relating loneliness and efficiency, the impact is clear: people with strong, positive relationships at work, and whose colleagues are accepting of diversity, were more likely to report successfully meeting their objectives at work on a consistent basis.
Conversely, our findings were not as varied as might be expected across different demographic groups. Whilst there were not differences in workplace loneliness found based on age or gender, there does seem to be an increased effect related to sexual orientation. Those identifying as LGBTQ were less likely to report having strong friendships at work compared to those who identify as heterosexual.
When it comes to addressing workplace loneliness from an organizational standpoint, it’s paramount that companies are doing everything in their power to minimize their employees’ risk of suffering from loneliness as its detrimental effects on both individual well-being and performance at work can come at a high cost. Strikingly, Totaljobs found that the majority of employees who are lonely feel that their employer does not do enough to combat the problem.
Learning more about the unique personalities of team members can provide helpful insight for managers to better connect with their employees. Organizations need to prioritize increasing awareness of colleagues who may be predisposed to feeling lonely and allow for open dialogue within departments and teams to encourage for greater understanding and empathy towards each other in the workplace.