WHAT IS LONELINESS
Loneliness is defined as the feeling of isolation, friendlessness, abandonment or rejection by work colleagues, neighbors or family. It is a human emotion complex and very unique to individual sufferer.
Loneliness is the inability of a person or group of persons to live for another.
It is a complex and unpleasant emotional response to a feeling of isolation or lack of companionship. It connotes a lack of connection to other people at the work environment or the community.
Loneliness is also a psychological mechanism to alert a person of their isolation and motivate them to seek active connection. Social, mental and emotional factors all contribute to a person’s feeling of isolation from society or environment in which they are. Loneliness according to psychologists is not necessarily being alone but the perception of being alone and isolated even among crowd or colleagues.
It is more prevalent in marriages, families and at workplaces.
CAUSES OF LONELINESS
People experience loneliness for many reasons. Many life experiences or occurrences such as the lack of friendship orthe physical absence of meaningful people around a person may trigger loneliness. Psychological problems such as depression in people could also be a trigger of loneliness in people.
Loneliness may also be as a result of a break up of a relationship or a loss of a dependable person resulting in the affecting person withdrawing contacts with society.
Unstable relationship in which the feeling of love cannot be given or received may also trigger loneliness in people.
A dysfunction in communication in the home or workplace also triggers loneliness and depression. It is this loneliness at the workplace that this piece serves to highlight.
It can also be as a result of factors such as low self-esteem. People who lack confidence in themselves very often believe they are not worthy of other people’s attention.
SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT ON LONELINESS
There are two schools of thought on loneliness: the existentialist and epistemic schools of thought.
The existentialist school views loneliness as part of our existence as humans. According this school of thought humans come into being, traverse life, and passes on to death all alone. One needs to accept it and so be able to cope with life in order to be able to draw satisfaction from life.
The epistemic school of thought however believe loneliness as a fundamental part of human existence because of the paradox of man’s desire to have meaning in life which conflicts with the isolation and nothingness of space or universe.
Again there are others who also argue that human beings are actively engaged with each other and space as they communicate and loneliness is the feeling of being left out of this process by others such as one’s superiors, or work colleagues or even oneself.
Researchers in a 1984 study found that most respondents polled had about three confidants. However, in a follow up research conducted in 2004 they found that this has reduced to zero confidants for most of the earlier respondents. Experts believe it’s not the number of confidants one has that is critical to one’s feeling of belongingness but the quality thereof. Having one or two close confidants is enough to make you feel less lonely and involved in the surroundings be it the workplace, community or family.
EFFECTS OF LONELINESS ON CORPORATE HUMAN RESOURCES
There are two main effects of loneliness on human capital of any organization: the psychological and physical.
Loneliness leads to depression and in some cases alcoholism in many people who are exposed to it. People suffering from loneliness may suffer sleeplessness which may affect their restoration process. They may become hyper sensitive and emotionally unstable and react disproportionately to issues. Others may appear uncooperative or show disconnect from their environment. In new staff, loneliness can result in impaired learning and memory retention. With experienced staff, loneliness at the workplace may result in poor judgment and bad decisions that may have far reaching implications for the organization.Other psychological effect may include depression and suicidal tendencies.
Loneliness if it becomes chronic may result in increased risks of stroke and other cardiovasculardiseases. It’s also been proven that loneliness may result in high blood pressure, obesity, digestive problems and weight gain. Others are alcoholism and drug abuse and altered brain functions leading to poor or weird decision making. Lonely people with Alzheimer’s disease may suffer progressive deterioration. It can also impact stress and induce reduced immunity to diseases.
A 2006 study by the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago found that loneliness can blood pressure of people over the age of fifty by about 30 points. A related study in the University of Chicago by Cacioppo found that loneliness impairs cognition and willpower, alters DNA transcription in immune cells, and eventually leads to high blood pressure. People who feels left out of situations, events and other gatherings develop a sense of exclusion from society and may experience decreases in temperature.
WHAT MUST MANAGEMENT DO TO REDUCE LONELINESS IN THE WORKPLACE
Loneliness at workplace can result in low productivity even with more experienced staff. It can result in staff not delivering to deadlines, not meeting targets, failing to close sales and in the process losing clients to the competition.It is the duty of every human resources outfit to create an enabling environment in the workplace to make every staff feel a part and contribute their knowledge according to their station in the organization.
The following are some of the measures Human Resources Managers
can put in place to reduce the feeling of loneliness at the workplace:
• Create more open offices to encourage staff to interact with each other.A common break room or coffee room may be created for staff to relax during their break time and to socialize with other colleagues. The HR must help the organization do its part in breaking down artificial barriers created. Open offices should be encouraged as much as possible as against private office spaces. It is critical for those planning office processes to as much as possible take time to consider what the potential barriers are and develop the office seating arrangement with those in mind. As much as practicable office seating arrangements must be done in a manner that would encourage interaction among staff.
• Management must actively support corporate behavioral changes that would result inall-
• inclusiveness to enable staff actively engage with each other.
• Encourage outdoor activities at least once in a quarter where every staff must take part in at least one activity. Some corporate entities in Accra have taken this seriously and organize workouts and other social activities from time to time get their staff in shape and involved with people from other corporate organizations. However, this is not so common in other regions outside of Accra.
• As much as possible management must establish a mix of repetitive or routine andunscheduled tasks that task staff to actively engage with others.
• Establish counseling centers where staffs are encouraged to talk to counselors confidentially.
• Superiors and officers must be groomed to be firm with staff without being abusive. Attitude of some management towards their staff may lead to some weak staff recoiling into their shells and thus induce unwanted, isolated or lonely feeling.
Cacioppo, John; Patrick, William, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, New York : W.W. Norton & Co., 2008. ISBN 978-0-393-06170-3. Science of Loneliness.com
de Jong-Gierveld, J.; Raadschelders, J. (1982). “Types of loneliness”. In Peplau, Letitia Anne; Perlman, Daniel. Loneliness: A sourcebook of current theory, research and therapy. New York: John Wiley and Sons. pp. 105–19. ISBN 978-0-471-08028-2.
Duck, S. (1992). Human relations (2nd ed.). London: Sage Publications.
Peplau, L.A.; Perlman, D. (1982). “Perspectives on loneliness”. In Peplau, Letitia Anne; Perlman, Daniel. Loneliness: A sourcebook of current theory, research and therapy. New York: John Wiley and Sons. pp. 1–18. ISBN 978-0-471-08028-2.
Author: Francis Enimil Ashun (B.Com MA) has over 16 years’ banking experience in Credit Administration and Branch Operations. He is a researcher in current trends in Human Resources Management and Development.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: +233 050 636 3388