How ‘Relational Energy’ enhances Engagement and Performance at Work

Commited Leaders frequently bring bursts of ‘Relational Energy’ into the workplace to ensure higher engagement and perfomance.

92% of employees feel their job engagement has improved after interacting with a 'Relational Energizer.

Good leaders keep a tap on their team members. When their subordinate’s Performance is dipping, they wish to further dig into the matter and do something about it. “I believe I am not liking what I do,” “I don’t feel engaged at work,” or “I lack the motivation to perform consistently” are some common feedback managers come across from disengaged employees. So why do people start to feel disengaged at work? The reasons can be many. It can be a lack of work-life balance, flexibility at work, increasing workload, or relations with colleagues at work.

Engagement and Energy levels

‘Employee engagement’ can also be called ‘energy at work.’ When employees are disengaged, they also feel de-energized at the same time. Organizations invest a lot in managing employees’ energy levels through various initiatives such as wellness programs, daycare, flexible working hours, and ergonomic workspaces. But we need to talk about a very crucial source of energy, the people themselves.

Many researchers have confirmed that positive interactions with people help to energize others. Therefore, we must have encountered people with a positive aura who can energize others. This energy transfer, which further helps to positively impact the Engagement and Performance of others at work, is known as Relational Energy. At some point in our careers, we must have come across some leaders who emanate with positive energy. Others feel uplifted and motivated as they are around them. For example, a senior sales manager at a petrochemicals firm shared on social media how motivated and energized she felt every day after meeting her sales head, who entered the office with a broad smile on her face.

During these turbulent times, when employees are being laid off, keeping existing employees’ motivation level is immensely important for companies. This increases the relevance of ‘Relational Energy.’

How relational energy works

In a workplace context, human energy is a resource that can be applied in doing some work. Further, motivation encompasses several facets of energy, including how the individual would want to use the energy, in which direction they use it, the intensity of energy, and how long they would like to persist in using it.

The research, ‘Relational Energy at Work: Implications for Job Engagement and Job Performance,’ states that five out of six streams of literature examine energy at an individual level, where it is considered to be physical or psychological. But the sixth stream redirects the focus of human energy to social interactions. As per the Interaction ritual theory, positive interactions create excitement, produce positive energy amongst participants, and spread to others. Further, the theory also states that at a workplace, in case of any help or need, a person will only go to someone with whom they feel positive energy while interacting. Irrespective of the fact that others might have more knowledge and experience.

The researchers conducted an open-ended survey to further establish the correlation of relational energy with job performance and engagement at work. The respondents were professionals with at least four years of experience from diverse backgrounds and industries. The respondents were asked, “Have you ever had a co-worker, boss/supervisor, or team member you felt energized to be around?” The response was encouraging. 59% of respondents identified a leader as a ‘Relational energizer.’ Moreover, the survey further revealed that 92% of respondents felt they could work harder, enjoy their work, or be motivated to stick to their tasks after interacting with relational energizing leaders. “She keeps me motivated to keep up the hard work,” “I was very motivated to do better at work,” “[This person] made me want to achieve more in work,” “People wanted to be around her and wanted to do well for her,” and “I always feel… ready to go to these group meetings because of her,” were some responses received by the respondents through the survey.

How Leaders can become 'Relational Energizers'

Most leaders in an organization are identified as ‘Relational Energizers.’ In the above research, 97% of respondents identified a leader as a ‘Relational Energizer.’ Companies can take specific steps to further inculcate qualities of a ‘Relational Energizer’ in their leaders.

High-quality connections

Allowing your leaders to build high-quality connections, i.e., meeting like-minded people, can generate relational energy. Leaders should be part of teams and projects which are challenging and also be part of leadership development programs. This will help them meet new people in the company and spread happiness.

Organize energizing events

Organizing events that entertain people and truly energize them at their conclusion. For example, one renowned restaurant chain organizes seminars where first, the co-founder presents on a particular topic. Then, after the presentation, a group of frontline staff conducts a Q&A session where they field questions from the audience with confidence and energy. This spirit from the field staff left the executives energized and uplifted.

Create a culture of 'giving'

Helping others at work also generates positive energy. For the giver, it gives a joy or warm glow of helping others at work; for the receiver, the energy and emotion of ‘gratitude’ emanates. Wayne Baker, Professor, University of Michigan, has seen a positive impact of helping others at work in his research. He analyzed the level of engagement in employees working in a firm that had a program called ‘The Reciprocity Ring.’ This involved practicing the act of giving and getting help.

Map' Relational Energy' at the workplace

Companies can conduct an organization-wide survey asking respondents, “When you interact with each person, how does it affect your energy?” The employees can respond to this by choosing one of the three options such as “very energizing,” “neutral,” to “very de-energizing.” After the result of this survey, the organization can analyze which teams are de-energized and where they need improvements. Relatively, the company will come to know where they need to focus on building high-quality connections, creating energizing events, and using tools that create an energizing giver culture.

If you feel that most of your employees are demoralized or disengaged at work, there might be a need for more relational energy. Companies can focus on improving daily interactions at work and encourage leaders to spread positivity with their words and actions.