The Surprising Neuroscience of Trust in the Workplace

In this week’s ExtraNeurordinary Newsletter, I’m taking you to the intersection of neuroscience and the daily hustle and bustle of our workplaces.

Before we get there, I have a favor to ask. If you’re on Instagram, let’s connect!

Ever had a water cooler chat that made your neurons tingle? Or a team meeting that felt like a warm hug? You might just take what happened for granted; that feelings like that are just natural. That there’s no way to trigger those events more often. Well, guess what? These aren’t just workplace dynamics; they are powerful neurochemical interactions shaping our professional lives. From the trust-building effects of oxytocin during successful collaborations to the drive and satisfaction fueled by dopamine after achieving milestones, I’m diving deep to understand how our brain functions influence and are influenced by our work environment. Join me as I explore real-life workplace scenarios and shed light on the intricate dance between our neurons and our professional interactions.

[And you don’t want to miss the conversation we had last with neuroscientist rockstar Dr. Paul Zak, one of the world’s experts on the neuroscience of love and trust. Keep reading – I’ve included the replay below!]

1. The Dynamic Duo: Oxytocin and Trust

Let’s start with a hormone we all adore: Oxytocin. Often dubbed the “love hormone”, this tiny molecule doesn’t just make hearts flutter during candle-lit dinners. In the workplace, it’s the unsung hero behind those trust falls during team-building exercises (literally and figuratively). When oxytocin levels rise, so does our propensity to trust others.

Fact to Impress Your Friends: Did you know that when a team succeeds together, everyone’s brains get a delightful oxytocin splash? It’s like nature’s own “well-done” sticker!

2. Love = Safe Zone

Our brains are wired for survival. When we feel loved, our ancient brain regions (like the amygdala) sense safety, reducing the “fight or flight” stress response. In the workplace, a supportive environment fosters this sense of safety, enabling creativity and innovation to flourish.

Quirky Tidbit: Hey leaders, next time you’re in a tight spot, maybe try some heart emojis. It’s neuroscientifically approved!

3. The Love-Trust Feedback Loop

Here’s where it gets groovy! Love begets trust, and trust begets love. In a workplace setting, feeling loved or appreciated often leads to a greater sense of trust in colleagues and superiors. When trust is established, it further promotes feelings of love and camaraderie. It’s a circle of workplace love, Elton John style!

4. Mirror Neurons: The Silent Matchmakers

Mirror neurons are our brain’s sly way of saying, “Hey, I feel you!” When you see a colleague succeed or face challenges, these neurons mirror that emotion, creating empathy. Empathy, in turn, strengthens love and trust. It’s like the brain’s version of swiping right on a workplace connection!

5. Dopamine: The ‘Reward’ Maestro

Dopamine is our brain’s reward chemical. It flows when we anticipate or achieve something rewarding. Think of it as that virtual high-five you get after ticking off a to-do or smashing a presentation out of the park.

Funny Thought: If oxytocin is the office’s favorite colleague, dopamine is the company’s bonus system!

6.. Dopamine and Motivation

The prospect of a reward triggers dopamine. In the workplace, this means setting clear goals and rewards can literally get our brains buzzing. Dopamine pushes us to achieve, innovate, and climb those corporate ladders (or, for the more avant-garde, the corporate climbing walls!).

7. Dopamine and Trust

Dopamine plays a cameo in the trust department too. When trust is established and promises are kept, the resulting sense of achievement or affirmation triggers—yep, you guessed it—a dopamine rush! So, trust not only feels good emotionally but also neurochemically.

8. Team Dynamics and Dopamine Delight

Working in teams? Dopamine’s got you covered. Collaborating successfully, sharing ideas, and feeling a sense of belonging can all lead to its release. This is partly why team achievements often feel more gratifying than solo victories.

A Playbook for Leaders and HR Maestros

Encourage Openness: The more we share, the more oxytocin gets a boost!

Promote Safe Spaces: Nurturing environments = more innovative thinking.

Celebrate Small Wins: Get those mirror neurons working and spread the love.

Celebrate Milestones: Those dopamine hits can boost morale and motivation.

Provide Clear Goals: Let employees chase that dopamine high by providing clear objectives.

Feedback is Gold: Regular, positive feedback? That’s a dopamine deluxe!

Closing Thoughts:

In the bustling ecosystem of the workplace, love and trust are not just fluff. Oxytocin and dopamine are like the dynamic duo of the workplace—building trust and driving motivation. They’re neuroscientific powerhouses! So, next time you feel a surge of trust after your boss praises your work, or a burst of appreciation for a teammate, remember—it’s not just emotions; it’s brain science!

Stay Neural, Stay Awesome!

Speaking of Trust … You’re Going to Love This Episode. TRUST ME!

Fasten your seatbelts folks, because on last week’s Geeks Geezers and Googlization Show Dr. Paul Zak rocked our Geeks Geezers and Googlization Show with we’re diving deep into the human brain to explore how to make every day your employees’ best day ever! Our guest is Neuroscience Trailblazer and Rockstar, Dr. Paul J. Zak. If you’ve ever wondered what makes this man tick, it’s probably a fusion of neurons, whiteboards, and sheer brilliance. With over 200 published papers and a citation ranking in the top 0.3%, he’s basically the LeBron James of neuroscience. But that’s not all! Paul is also the author of “Immersion: The Science of the Extraordinary and Source of Happiness.”.

Watch the REPLAY or catch the episode on your favorite podcast platform.

Click on one of the following to watch or listen.

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