Organizations Benefit from Nurturing Human Relationships

Matt Harvey, Stanford University May 23, 2011

From engineering teams of just a few members, to global companies with tens of thousands of employees, organizations must constantly search for new ways to reinvigorate stressed-out workforces. You may be familiar with corporate initiatives that pop up every few years announcing new (often expensive) employee programs or software purchases intended to make working life easier. However, a lack of tools may not be the root of the problem. Maybe it’s a lack of trust in human relationships.

If trust seems too touch-feely a concept, you may be surprised to learn that it has caught the attention of the US Army. After a decade of continuous engagement around the world, military commanders are faced with “employees” who have been asked to maintain a near-constant state of fighting readiness. In this state, soldiers are often called upon to exert hard power over other human beings. According to author Ori Brafman, this means a workforce overwhelmed by exposure to the stress hormone cortisol. If you can’t avoid exposing workers to stress, how do you create an organization better prepared to deal with this exposure?

Brafman’s suggestion to the Army was to develop the capacity to create more soft power and trust-based networks. In the video below, Brafman describes his experiences working with military personnel to help them relate their feelings and experiences in a more humane way. Between the participants, these interactions actually developed a greater level of intimacy, says Brafman, a concept that doesn’t often come to mind in business or the military.

If you’re dealing with stressed-out workers, perhaps you should hold off on purchasing that new collaboration tool with all the bells and whistles, and instead, invest your energy into improving the relationships between the human beings that make up your company’s human capital.

View Ori Brafman’s entire ETL lecture on eCorner.