Connection: A Building Block of Culture

Connection - A Building Block of Culture

Many factors contribute to unwanted turnover: A poor relationship between supervisor and employee; a toxic work culture; dissatisfaction with the job; and employee-peer drama.

All of these issues have one thing in common: Connection. Connection creates trustworthiness, loyalty, and a sense of ownership. Connection is a key building block to a great culture. Relationships crumble and relationships erode when there is a lack of connection.

For example: When patients lose connection with their healthcare provider, they begin to question their loyalty to that provider and they start looking for a replacement.

Another example: During mergers and acquisitions, employees often lose the connection they felt to their brand, their identity, and their norms. As a result, drama follows.

Employees lose their connection to the job when they are viewed as a cog in a wheel, or when they are expected to do more with less. It’s not long before they start searching for a job they can connect to.

Connectivity is more about feeling than it is about logic. In business, the world “feel” is a four-letter word we avoid at all costs, yet connection is primarily about feelings. This article is about four types of connections which become the building blocks of culture.

  1. Connection with self
  2. Connection to the job
  3. Connection with the boss
  4. Connection with peers

When we know ourselves to be connected to all others, acting compassionately is simply the natural thing to do.
-Rachel Naomi Remen

Connection with Self

As a leader, good connection with yourself (self-awareness) is the key to building good relationships with others. When you are connected to yourself, you live in alignment with your highest values. For example, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner practices compassionate management to get to the root of the problem instead of getting drawn into workplace drama. His practice of empathy is rooted in his own values and connection to self.

If you are currently struggling in your leadership role, ask yourself where you have lost connection to your highest truth. Ask yourself if you are being forced to make decisions that are out of alignment with your core values. Perhaps you have been allowing poor performance because you fear conflict. Perhaps you are weak in some of your managerial skills but you are not willing to invest in yourself to become competent. These little habits of self-betrayal take away your confidence and connection to self.

Connection to the Job

Frontline employees in jobs such as manufacturing, janitorial services, or secretarial work often feel disconnected because they perceive there is no opportunity for growth. To increase connection in these types of jobs leaders can do two things: Help employees understand how their job affects the whole, and offer personal growth or career opportunities.

Besides the perceived lack of opportunities, employees can disconnect from their job because of internal scandals that tarnish the brand and diminish pride. (Think about the employee experience at Uber Technologies since the sexual harassment scandal and resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick.)

The key phrase to remember when cultivating an employee’s connection to the job is a sense of ownership. The more the employee feels a sense of ownership toward their role and the company brand, the more connection to the job and the more engaged they are.

Connection with the Boss

When I do focus groups, interviews, or 360 degree assessments, the biggest complaint that I hear among employees is “my boss doesn’t listen.” The second most common statement is, “My boss doesn’t respect me.” Employees want to be heard, acknowledged, and respected. Employees don’t want a best friend for a boss: they want a boss who is fair. They want to know how to be successful in their boss’s eyes, and believe it or not, they want to be held accountable. Accountability helps employees achieve success. Disconnection with the boss can generally be fixed if the boss listens, communicates, and is perceived as fair.

Whether the boss is the supervisor or the CEO, employees will risk it all if they believe in their boss. When employees are connected to their boss, they go the extra mile. A great example is Market Basket employees who went on strike to reinstate Arthur T. Demoulas, the beloved CEO of Market Basket grocery store chain.

Connection with Peers

The leader has a lot of influence on employee peer connectivity. Think of the boss-employee relationship to parallel the parent-child relationship. When mom and dad play favorites, or when mom and dad have different sets of rules, the kids figure out how to work the system, and sometimes they do so against each other. Structures in your workplace work much the same way. For example, if one of your managers plays favorites, or if one of the staff members tries to gain your trust by tattling or by giving you the inside scoop, it isn’t long before teamwork starts to erode, cliques form, and gossip ensues. Don’t invite backstabbing behavior by encouraging gossip or by listening to hearsay. If you want the team members to improve their capacity to work together, make sure are fostering trust. Connection happens when employees like and respect their co-workers.

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.
-Martin Luther King Jr.


Without a connection to self, it’s difficult be an enlightened leader. Without connection to the job, people do not bring their unique strengths and gifts to the workplace. Without connection to the boss, there is a risk of unwanted turnover. Without connection to peers, there is lack of teamwork and an increase in turf wars and workplace drama. The four building blocks of connection builds the platform for connection with the client.

In your line of work, do you observe more connection or disconnection? Please share your comments on social media.

About the Author

Avatar photo
Marlene Chism

Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker, and author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley 2011), No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015), and 7 Ways to Stop Drama in Your Healthcare Practice  (Greenbranch 2018).