Dr. Gottman’s groundbreaking research with couples has allowed us at The Gottman Institute to apply his work to a much broader spectrum of human relationships. His findings can teach us a great deal about building and maintaining healthy connections with our families, friends, and even coworkers!*

In the next three weeks, we will cover an area in which relationship dynamics can dictate your degree of professional and financial success, and even determine whether or not your career dreams are fulfilled. Without further ado, we bring you Dr. Gottman on The Workplace!

In his celebrated book, The Relationship Cure, Dr. Gottman writes:

Paying attention and turning towards one another’s needs clearly has a positive impact on workers’ lives and the organizations that employ them. Studies show that an employee’s perception that he or she works in an emotionally supportive environment increases job satisfaction, lowers stress, decreases the likelihood of quitting, and improves team performance. Yale University researchers who conducted a study of service workers found that workers’ ability to talk with one another about their stress helped them to cope, and even protected them against health risks. Another one of their studies showed that work groups’ performance suffered when members didn’t communicate well or didn’t pay attention to one another’s feelings, or when individuals became so controlling that they didn’t allow others to contribute. I contrast, when people in these work groups got along with one another, the positive results were synergistic – that is, peer in the group motivated each other to do better, and the sum of their combined efforts ended up being greater than if each person had been working alone.”

In fact, as some of you may know, there is an entire field dedicated to the study of workplace dynamics called Industrial and Organizational Psychology (or I-O for short). In this field, organizational citizenship behaviors (“OCBs”), having been shown to be beneficial to both organization and team effectiveness, are measured based on 5 factors: Altruism, Courtesy, Sportsmanship, Conscientiousness, and Civic Virtue. It comes as no surprise to us that all of these qualities relate to emotional intelligence of employees with regard to their coworkers, in much the same way as other organizations – groups of friends, couples, and families. 

In the next few weeks, we will share with you Dr. Gottman’s advice for building better emotional connections in coworker relationships, reveal common mistakes we make in the workplace, myth-bust old notions of “correct” professional behavior necessary for moving ahead, and introduce you to the real path towards achieving success in the business world.

On Wednesday, we will share a fascinating article from the Harvard Business Review, describing research on workplace dynamics that almost exactly replicates our discovery of the 5:1 positivity to negativity ratio (read more about 5:1 here). This Friday, our Weekend Homework Assignment will give you skills for Turning Towards your coworkers to build successful and long-lasting relationships in your workplace.

*DISCLAIMER: Dr. John Gottman has spent the past 40 years researching relationships, primarily focusing on married couples. He has also studied families, parents, and children. He has not performed research on workplace relationships. To help increase efficiency and productivity of workplace teams, we will be putting his proven findings on intimate relationships in conversation with journal and news articles from the field of Industrial and Organization Psychology. His concepts discovered to be true in intimate relationships – the 5:1 ratio, for example –  have shown to apply to professional relationships as well.

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The Workplace: Building Better Professional Relationships

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.