The world of work has undeniably evolved over the years, with technology and globalisation reshaping how companies and organisations operate. One noticeable shift has been towards a more transactional approach, focusing on efficiency, productivity and quantifiable outcomes. While this shift may bring numerous benefits, it also raises concerns about the potential downsides of downplaying emotional aspects in the workplace.
The advent of technology, automation and data-driven decision-making has significantly contributed to the rise of transactional work cultures. Companies are increasingly prioritising speed, accuracy and profitability, leading to a stronger emphasis on tasks and objectives rather than fostering emotional connections between employees and the organisation. In such an environment, employees may feel like replaceable cogs in a machine, leading to a decline in job satisfaction and loyalty.
“Organisations face the challenge of attracting and retaining talent, especially with the rise of gig work and independent contractors”
Unmesh Pawar, CPO, Dentsu
As jobs are restructured to suit hybrid work settings, Unmesh Pawar, CPO, Dentsu, observes that some employees feel a sense of exclusion and dryness, missing the emotional connections and culture that thrive in physical workplaces. The shift towards hybrid work has also diminished serendipity and emotional investment in organisations, leading to a phenomenon called the ‘great resignation’ as younger generations seek purpose-driven workplaces.
“Organisations face the challenge of attracting and retaining talent, especially with the rise of gig work and independent contractors. Loyalty has become more transient, and in tough economic times, organisations may prioritise short-term cost-cutting measures over employee well-being,” explains Pawar.
However, Pawar believes that it is essential for organisations to recognise the importance of compassion, empathy and belongingness at the workplace. Prioritising employee well-being and enhancing emotional connections are key aspects that organisations should focus on. This includes offering wellness programmes, mental health resources and fostering meaningful relationships among employees.
While transactional efficiency can yield short-term gains, neglecting emotional aspects in the workplace can have several negative consequences. First, reduced employee engagement is a significant concern. When employees feel undervalued or disconnected, their engagement levels decline. This can lead to decreased productivity, higher turnover rates and a negative impact on overall organisational culture.
Furthermore, a transactional work culture may lead to diminished creativity and innovation. Emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in fostering a psychologically safe environment where employees feel comfortable taking risks and suggesting new ideas. In a highly transactional environment, however, creativity may be stifled, as employees may feel discouraged from expressing their unique perspectives.
“Organisations that prioritise emotional and psychological connectedness can harness the power of passion, creativity and innovation”
Jayant Kumar, CHRO, ACC and Ambuja Cement
Moreover, a lack of emphasis on emotional intelligence can lead to a decline in collaboration and teamwork. Strong emotional bonds are essential for building effective teams. In a transactional environment, employees may prioritise individual success over team collaboration, resulting in a fractured workplace dynamic where teamwork suffers.
Finally, a lack of emotional support and empathy can increase stress and burnout among employees. In a transactional setting, employees may feel isolated and unsupported, contributing to higher levels of stress and ultimately leading to burnout.
According to Jayant Kumar, CHRO, ACC and Ambuja Cement, the primary driving factor behind fostering emotional connectedness lies within the organisation’s leadership and its commitment to go beyond mere contractual obligations. When leaders value ingenuity and encourage employees to create value for the organisation, a passionate and creative workforce emerges.
Kumar says, “Organisations that prioritise emotional and psychological connectedness can harness the power of passion, creativity and innovation. This leads to disproportionate value creation for such organisations, setting them apart from those merely following transactional workflows.”
Creating a workplace where autonomy, purpose and mastery over their roles are given importance is crucial for fostering emotional intelligence and empathy. “When employees feel valued and empowered, they are more likely to be emotionally invested in their work and the organisation,” states Kumar.
Vivek Tripathi, VP-HR, Newgen Technologies, shares that when teams are geographically dispersed and rely heavily on virtual communication, the transmission of content becomes more efficient, but the transmission of emotions and sentiments is often compromised. As a result, employees may feel disconnected from their colleagues and the organisation’s mission, potentially leading to a decline in motivation and inspiration.
“To mitigate this impact, Tripathi suggests that “organisations take intentional steps such as creating opportunities for face-to-face interaction, encouraging informal communication, emphasising the big picture, cultivating emotional intelligence in leadership, and recognising and celebrating achievements.” He points out, “By striking a balance between transactional efficiency and emotional connection, companies can ensure that the human element remains at the heart of their organisational culture, inspiring employees and driving success.”
While the pursuit of transactional efficiency is understandable, organisations must take deliberate steps to nurture emotional intelligence and empathy in their workforce. Several strategies can be employed to achieve this balance.
“By striking a balance between transactional efficiency and emotional connection, companies can ensure that the human element remains at the heart of their organisational culture, inspiring employees and driving success”
Vivek Tripathi, VP-HR, Newgen Technologies
Implementing training programmes that focus on emotional intelligence, communication and empathy can be highly beneficial. Encouraging employees at all levels to participate in workshops, seminars, or coaching sessions can help them improve their emotional intelligence skills and better understand the importance of empathy.
Fostering a supportive environment is essential for nurturing emotional intelligence. By creating a culture that encourages open communication and recognises the importance of emotional well-being, organisations can help employees feel valued and supported.
Recognising and rewarding emotional intelligence is also crucial. Incorporating emotional intelligence as a criterion for performance evaluations, and acknowledging and rewarding employees who demonstrate exceptional empathy and understanding can incentivise the development of these skills.
Additionally, organisations should actively seek feedback from employees and genuinely listen to their concerns. This demonstrates that the organisation values their emotions and perspectives, fostering a culture of trust and openness.
Kumar further adds that, while the pressure of a transactional work environment may seem daunting, it is not an insurmountable obstacle. Organisations can cultivate emotional intelligence and empathy by emphasising a culture of connectedness, purpose and autonomy. By doing so, they can inspire passion, creativity and innovation, leading to greater value creation and a workforce that is emotionally engaged and committed. As such, it is vital for leadership and management teams to continuously shape and foster a culture that prioritises these aspects at the workplace.