Neuroscience of Gratitude

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Managers have tried various strategies and perks to boost employee engagement—all with little impact on long-term retention and performance. But now, neuroscience offers some answers. Through his research on the brain chemical oxytocin—shown to facilitate collaboration and teamwork—Zak has developed a framework for creating a culture of trust and building a happier, more loyal, and more productive workforce.

By measuring people’s oxytocin levels in response to various situations—first in the lab and later in the workplace—Zak identified eight key management behaviors that stimulate oxytocin production and generate trust:

(1) Recognize excellence.

(2) Induce “challenge stress.”

(3) Give people discretion in how they do their work.

(4) Enable job crafting.

(5) Share information broadly.

(6) Intentionally build relationships.

(7) Facilitate whole-person growth.

(8) Show vulnerability.


Ultimately, Zak concludes, managers can cultivate trust by setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to see it through, and then getting out of their way. In short, to boost engagement, treat people like responsible adults.

Where to next?

Dr. Cynthia Howard

Executive Coach  Performance Consultant  LSSBB

It takes resilience and agility to stay focused in these disruptive times. We want to help you get ahead of the challenges in this digital age with short practical tips. Go forward. Be your best

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