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5 Mar 2015

Discussing Children at Work Makes Good Work

Discussing children at work makes for a more honest workplace.

Discussing children at work and sharing things that remind us of them help to create a more honest workplace.

Discussing children at work is good for business. It goes beyond building rapport and team. It builds honesty.

There are other ways to do this, of course. This interests me because some places do not allow the display of personal effects in work areas. At the time, I only saw this hurting the employee.

It could hurt the business. A less happy employee means a less productive one. The effect is minimized because the rule applied to all. This is what I thought at the time.

Research behind Discussing Children at Work

However, as Sreedhari Desai (University of North Carolina) says in “Adults Behave Better When Teddy Bears Are in the Room” (Harvard Business Review, September 2011), this goes far past discussing children at work.

This includes things that remind us of children. Desai work shows that even things like teddy bears and crayons help. When we come in contact with kids, our bodies release oxytocin. It is a hormone. When released, we behave in a more pro-social way. It does seem though that discussing younger children works better. Desai says under ten works well.

Applying the Research

Desai’s findings are in line with those about time and money words. Time words primes us to think more about friends and families. Money words primes us to think more about work. When we think about friends and families, we are happier and more honesty.

This can affect whole companies too. Desai found that firms with “five or more day-care centers, nurseries or kindergartens within a two-mile radius of their headquarters” showed large increases in their charitable giving.

The Big Point of Discussing Children at Work

The big point of discussing children at work is that words matter. They motivate. Many times though it is not their meaning that does this. It is the feeling they give. That is their connotations. It is not their definitions.

A single word can set a mood. It does not need to be in a sentence. We can choose the right words to explain things. If they set the wrong mood though, we undermine our intent.

Discussing children at work might seem a waste of time. It does though set the right mood for doing good work.

2 Responses

  1. I believe strongly that “discussing children at work” or ANY TOPIC not violating a person’s personal space and privacy builds human connections and consequently trust and empathy. And it’s those connections and especially the trust and empathy that improves performance.

    May I suggest that this is no more obvious than in education…

    1. Mike Lehr

      So, true, John. This post shows that it also helps to create a more ethical culture. That is the takeaway for me: how all of this influence culture overall.

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