The energy and vitality of individuals and organizations depends on the quality of the connections among people inside the organization, and between them and their customers and clients. The key to transforming your own work experience and the performance of the people around you is to build and nurture high quality connections.

So says Jane Dutton, professor of Business Administration at the University of Michigan and author of the book, Energizing Your Workplace. Dutton argues that low quality connections are marked by distrust and disregard of others' worth, and like metal corroded through exposure to toxic substancees, people in toxic organiztions are corroded through exposure to the toxicity of low-quality connections and subsequently it corrodes innovation, loyalty and commitment.

What Dutton means by energy is the sense of being eager to act and perform at a high level. Energy is the fuel that makes great organiztions run. Every interaction with others at work--big or small, brief or lengthy-has the potential to deplete vital energy.

When positive energy is activated through a high quality connection, it can lead to what psychologist Barbara Frederickson calls, "positive spirals." People who have high quality connections experience more energy and more positive emotions such as joy, interest and love. This state of being increases their capacity to think and act in the moment. In turn, this change builds more capacity and desire to effectively interact with others, generating more opportunities for energy to spread.

Management researchers Rob Cross and Wayne Baker at the University of Michigan have been studying the effects of energy in work networks and how energy--positive or negative--can spread like a virus. Most corrosive connections between work colleagues or managers ocur in small incidents over time, not through blow-ups, and the effect is cumulative. And this corrosive relationship can often migrate from connections at work to the home, family and friends.

According to Peter Frost, author of Toxic Emotions at Work, and professor of organizational behavior at the University of British Columbia, the benefits of high quality connections is enormous. High quality connections benefit individuals both in their overall well being and their work performance. High quality connections revitalize, helping people to live longer by reducing the risk of death from heart disease; lessens the susceptibility to depression; and reduces self-destructive behaviors. High quality connections enable individuals to engage more fully in job tasks, increases their capacity to learn and eagerness to cooperate with others.

Managers can enhance high quality connections in their organizations through an number of strategies argues Dutton, including developing a plan that has four components--task enablement; focusing on ways of interacting that facilitates other's successful performance; building trust, which is acting in ways that convey to others the belief they will act with integrity; a plan to handle and correct corrosive relationships; and the establishment of programs and policies and processes that enable high quality connections and the removal of those that don't.

The Gallup organization's survey of workers in the past few years has clearly shown that employee engagement levels and productivity has severely declined because of relationship issues. Corrosive work relationships are like black holes that can swallow up energy that people need to do their jobs. In contrast, high quality relationships generate and sustain energy, equipping people to be happy and productive. Of all the management strategies available, this holds the promise to have some of the greatest impacts in organizations.

Author's Bio: 

Ray B. Williams is Co-Founder of Success IQ University and President of Ray Williams Associates, companies located in Phoenix and Vancouver, providing leadership training, personal growth and executive coaching services.