It’s all in the code

An exiting week as I start my journey into the world of FACS (Facial Action Coding System).

A simple system for mapping what is happening on the face and some parts of the body with a series of alphanumeric identifiers.

It has been good to get back in touch with some old friends from my first days with Paul Ekman International and The Emotional Intelligence Academy, it has almost been like a reunion in a way and I think that has added to the whole excitement of the situation.

So what is FACS?

FACS is a way of demonstrating what is happening on the face by using a series of codes called an AU or Action Unit.  The idea being that you can demonstrate exactly what is happening on a face, without actually needing to see the face itself.  The system was developed by Paul Ekman, Wallace Friesen and Joseph Hager.  An AU itself does not define an emotion has appeared, simply that the use of a muscle or combination of muscles has produced a discernible difference on the face.  This is important to remember!  Many people think that the FACS system is a way of coding emotions, not true, though there are recognised combinations for certain facial displays associated with emotions.  Confused yet?

Think of this more like a map of what is going on in display only. A map of the local countryside is a map only and does not give you the reason for the fields and the hills. Think of FACS in the same way.  As you get deeper you can start to look at the emotional signals that we recognise and start applying a code to them.  A genuine smile uses the AU 6 and 12, and if it is a subtle or gentle smile may be coded as 6c+12c.  The letter following the number indicates the intensity of the action shown.

The cominations are varied and different and have very specific criteria for their measurement.  Not only this but one may impact on the display of another.

If it sounds complicated it is, while being essentially very simple at the same time.  The key is the understanding of how the various muscle groups work together and against each other in the facial displays that we see everyday.

It is considered to take over 100 hours of coding before you would be considered to be proficient at  measuring and mapping the criteria, and many thousands of hours before you could be considered expert.

The advantages of the system of those of us that deal with emotions is it gives us a far greater and finer insight into what actions are behind the facial displays we see.  The advantage is being able to spot the very subtle displays of emotion can be significantly increased.  Think also about squashed, masked, and even display rules.

The system is sound and has been used for many years, in the measurement of psychology patients and in these days significantly more for counter terrorism, advertising and even developing accurate facial displays for computer game characters.

There are many uses that FACS can be diverted into and certainly with the technology advances that are happening these days plans are in place to develop computer systems and programs that use elements of FACS to identify responses to advertisements.  Could we soon be looking at technology that reads what is going on with our face, understands that we are interested by what we see and continues to aim those adverts at us.

I can say with confidence that is being looked at, though at the moment processing power is an issue and the human brain is still far superior at coding.   The best computers are still taking weeks to code a face that takes an experience coder a few minutes.

I will certainly be using the new skills I am learning and expect to hear more on the subject in future.

 

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Isn’t it all a bit…

Isn’t just looking at body language a bit pointless?

I had a discussion over this with a friend a while ago.  We were discussing body language, micro-expressions, she asked “Don’t you think it is all a bit pointless, if you are spending so much time looking at the body language, how are you meant to do anything else?”

How right she is.  Not about it being pointless, but more about the effort of will that is required to focus on so many things happening at the same time.

When we are making an assessment of someone for credibility there are five channels of communication that we need to focus on.  Focussing on five very different areas for the minutia of information and then comparing that with the signals you are getting from the other four channels, it could give you a headache.  Making sure that the questions that you are asking are pertinent and then listening to the response while also thinking the next question up.  Is the response appropriately worded, at the right speed and pitch, is the language distancing?  At the same time what is the posture like, what are the emblems being shown and do the expressions match the details of what is being said?

But if we restrict ourself to just body language, as many practitioners do, we are missing a lot of information.  It would be like looking at a tapestry down a toilet roll tube.  You would only see a tiny part of the image and wouldn’t get the whole picture.

Assessing someone is like driving a car.  You have to control acceleration, gears, clutch, braking, monitoring the instruments, steer and keep an eye on everything that is going on outside the car.  When we first learn to drive, all of these things take a huge amount of concentration, but as we become a lot more accomplished, some things become second nature.  It can be the same with the assessment process.

Some people have an advantage where they have a natural talent, just like some formula one drivers have a natural ability in driving in comparison to your average road driver.

There are ways that you can make this easier on yourself.  Work in pairs or teams with one person asking the questions and listening to the answers, and the other person focussing on the non-verbal elements.

But remember,  before all you must try to establish a base line – the normal operating level of the person.  Without the baseline it makes it difficult to spot the deviations from normal that give us something to focus on.  Baseline does not just happen, and should have some time devoted to it.  Establishing normal operating levels but also what a genuine emotional response looks like.  Take your time and become familiar with normal.

This is something that is nearly always missing in job interviews.  A couple of minutes chatting about inconsequential things can make a huge amount of difference in finding out what is really going on with someone.

 

Variety is the spice of life.

Monotony – Bad : Variety – Good

In the daily grind, it is very important to try to stay away from the daily grind.  It doesn’t matter what we do for a job, we will always have those niggling little duties that are tedious but just have to be done.

There are 2 fast ways to cause stress in an employee.   The first is the most commonly understood and recognised, overworked and undervalued.  Asking someone to do more work than they are capable of coping with.  They end up bogged down with their to-do list getting long er and longer with no end in sight.  This is de-motivating and further reduces productivity.  You are looking at someone who is very likely to burn out in a short space of time.

The less recognised cause of stress is the lack of variety.  This is impacts on the creative personality the most.   In many ways this can be more detrimental than over working.  First of all the mind starts to wander, when that happens mistakes start to be made.  Self doubt and stress develop.

Make sure that your staff stay engaged, break up the monotony of the day-to-day with other tasks and challenges that they can get their teeth into.  If there is nothing in their working role that allows that to happen consider a rotational pattern to allow people variety, or allow challenges in other ways.

A challenged and engaged employee tends to be more successful, less prone to making mistakes, and more likely to engage with new ideas when they come along.  A failure to engage and support staff is a slippery slope to malcontent.  Once you have a disgruntled member of staff, it becomes more and more difficult to bring them back.

People have different levels of tolerance for stress and boredom, so there is not yardstick measure of what is right.  Each person should be treated as the individual they are.  Regular contact with the troops is the best way to notice those changes in mood.  This is where larger companies are sometimes sadly lacking.

Listening to the staff is only half the battle and many of the people in this situation may have already reached the point of “What is the point of complaining? Nothing ever changes!”  Sadly, this is very often the case.  Many companies call themselves “Investors in People” and have a nice plaque in their offices to prove it.  In most cases this means that they have training and development programmes in place.  That is not really investing in people, that is just making sure your staff have the skills to do the job.  Once again they miss out that important factor of Emotional Salary.  Remembering that their staff are people and individuals, and not just pieces of equipment.  Companies even avoid calling the staff their people, using instead the term FTE (Full Time Employee).  A personal dislike of mine.  That is distancing language, it is dehumanising the individual into a 35 hour a week piece of equipment.

Everyone has a different set of skills and traits that make them what they are, this should be taken into consideration when you are recruiting and when you are developing staff.  We are still very much in the mind of employing people for a role.  This is fine in its own way, as long as you are clear what the role is and its responsibilities, but how much more amazing would it be to find someone with skills and think “how can I use them?” Now that would be recruitment way ahead of the crowd.

Look at the people you have already, you may have lurking in your teams a new Sales person, a team manager or an analyst.   Don’t get bogged down on if they have experience, aptitude and skill sets can be developed; attitude needs to be nurtured.

No one employs unmotivated negative individuals, they are created by who they work for.

 

Now how are you going to act? The Interview.

One of the most common questions that anyone in non-verbal communications gets asked is “How should I act at an interview?”

My response is usually that you shouldn’t be acting at all.  Though I appreciate this is not what they were really getting at.  Though it is something that is worth bearing in mind.

When you go for an interview you would expect that the person interviewing you would be honest with you, answer your questions truthfully and give you a real understanding of what the new job role would be about “warts and all”.  Would it not be fair to extend them the same courtesy?  When someone is looking for a person to fill a role they need to make sure they are getting the right person for the job.  If someone decided to fib on their application or at interview, you would not have been honest with your prospect employer, but most certainly you would not have been honest with yourself.  You may even end up accepted into a role that you are just not suited for and out of your depth.

It is obvious that the real question should be, “How do I give the best impression of myself at interview?”   That is a different story.  Here are some hints and tips, by no means an exhaustive list but food for thought.

  • Everyone gets nervous at an interview.  When there is a risk involved anxiety is heightened, and in applying for a job you have a risk element to it.  Fail to impress and you will go away with out the job, you will have missed out on a chance at personal gain.  Try and look at thinks objectively.  If you are not successful at interview you are in no worse position that you are at the moment.  I am not suggesting you are completely blasé about things but accept things for what they are don’t focus on the ifs and buts.
  • Offer you hand to the interviewer on first meeting them and greet them by name if at all possible.  Make sure you have had an opportunity to dry your hands before meeting.  Sweaty palms are not pleasant and watching someone rub their hands on their clothes to dry them is a sure give away of nerves.
  • Wait until you are invited to sit before doing so.  Sit with a good posture, but not too rigid and face the interviewer directly.  Turning to the side is a defensive posture and can make you seem closed.  If you are feeling nervous you can subtly adjust your posture to the side, this should help you feel more comfortable but take care not to over-extend this.
  • Try not to fidget.  This makes you look very nervous or like a five-year old in need of the toilet.  Focus on your body in a way that does not detract from what you are doing in the interview.   Fold your hands loosely with your fingers laced together in your lap with your thumbs pressed together.  This is a good neutral posture and should give you a focus, it will also reduce the chance of excessive manipulators being shown.  Be warned though, leaning forward and putting your hands on the desk is a territorial display.
  • Regulate your breathing.  When we are emotionally aroused our respiration rate tends to increase.  This can become very obvious when you are speaking, making your conversation stilted and even slightly asthmatic.  If you are prone to this behaviour, pause and take a slow breath before starting to speak.  Take care not to over emphasise this pause though.  I saw a very bad example of this behaviour during the recent interviews with a certain Media Mogul.  Over extend the pauses and you come off as either disinterested or clueless.
  • Taking a more relaxed posture can help reduce some of the tension, this is fine to do as the interview progresses, but remember to stay attentive.   Being upright and rigid can come across as very tense.  If the chair has arms lean one elbow on the arm and drop the shoulder slightly.  This will give you a much more relaxed look and will also make you feel more relaxed with it.
  • Don’t be afraid of using illustrators, but don’t fabricate them.  Remember a genuine illustrator has a tempo that matches the speech and underlines or emphasises phrases in the speech.   Let them flow naturally but don’t let them get out of control.

Remember, most interviewers will be expecting you to be nervous anyway, so a little trepidation is fine, as long as you are not a gibbering pile of nerves and sinew.  Also consider that these are very general guidelines and should be suitable for most situations.  However, a sales role may expect you to be far more aggressive in your attitude and posture, and confident in your delivery.

Also consider that even if you don’t get past this interview it is a chance to learn and practice, and always thank your interviewer for their time and part with a handshake.

 

With a curl of the lip, he is not Elvis

“Contempt is the weapon of the weak and a defence against one’s own despised and unwanted feelings.” – Alice Miller.

We are all capable of it.  We see a quality in someone who we don’t like or find immoral or substandard and we start the climb to the moral high ground.

Human beings are naturally a social creature and as such we have a certain established social hierarchy.  This has been much convoluted over the years, mainly through the development of our higher brain processes, established deferential protocols in business and so forth.  you have to love that neo-cortex.  However, we are still at the mercy of our limbic brain when it comes to some of our daily interactions.  Contempt is one of the most unusual of the seven base emotions for two reasons.  Firstly, it is the only unilateral expression in that it only happens on one side of the face.  Secondly, it requires a moral comparative to take place.  The other six base emotions do not have to have a second individual involved.  You can be happy, angry or sad, even disgusted without another person being involved.  Contempt requires direct interaction with another individual.  It comes by the assessment of that individual and their actions in direct comparison to how we would behave in the same situation, or as a direct result of a previous interaction.  Contempt is filled with self-identity.  It requires an element of higher brain function but is still shown at the Micro-facial expression level showing that it can still appear on the face before the cognitive mind has a chance to get in the way.

As mentioned contempt is the only unilateral universal expression.  There doesn’t seem to be any definitive study on which side of the face it tends to appear on, but I have noticed (not scientifically measured) that right-handed people tend to show contempt on the left side of the face and vice-versa.  Perhaps others would like to confirm or deny this observation.

Contempt is shown by a tightening of the cheek muscle, pulling the lips up and outwards, almost a half-smile, though there is no involvement with the muscles around the eye.  Sometimes, though not always, the head will tip backwards slightly giving the appearance of  “looking down the nose”.

Let me point out at this time, that Elvis was not showing contempt in his lip curl, though that lip is almost the further extension of the contempt expression into the sneer.  A demonstration that is almost a contempt/disgust blend.  Sometimes the contempt comes with dismissive emblems, the flick of the hand, the closed shoulder and a prolonged blink when using dismissive language.

Contempt is not a pleasant emotion to be on the receiving end of.  It is degrading, it makes you feel worthless.  In a working relationship if a staff member demonstrates contempt for a superior, that working relationship is likely to be unrecoverable.  This can be said also for a customer to a supplier.

As the quote from Alice at the head of this post says; you often see contempt being raised when someone sees something they don’t like about themselves in another person.

Contempt can easily lead to disgust and anger, and that itself leads to a whole heap of problems of its own.

Roll up – Roll up!

“There is something that you are not telling me”

How can you tell if there is something more that someone wants to add, but for some reason they are “holding their tongue”.  There are various ways and these can change depending on cultural background. But I am going to look at a couple of the more common ones.

A fair description of what goes on is what I have already said, holding your tongue.  When you are looking for clues to deception it is not always about telling a direct lie, sometimes deception can be accomplished by omission of information.  This can often be more difficult to spot.

Holding the tongue between the teeth is a signal that someone is trying to resist the temptation to say something, just as is the cheek bite.  Remember though, you may not be sure what the information being held back is.  It may not be a lie as such, there may be no intention of deceit.  They may be holding back on something they feel personally embarrassed or ashamed about.  We must also consider baseline.  This may be a normal operating procedure for them. Maybe they have a sore tongue, maybe they have dry lips.  Only by knowing what is usual, can you see what is unusual.

The other holding sign is the lip roll.  Rolling the lips inwards between the teeth or pressing the lips together so that the darker lip area disappears.  This is a really good indicator that someone is trying to hold back on saying something.  Consider other factors along side.  Nothing happens in isolation, you will need to look at the other signs at the same time.   Rolling the lips with a lowered brown and raised lower eyelid is closer to a sign of anger.  You can almost guarantee that someone is holding in their anger.

You have to consider many options when people don’t want to tell you something.  Don’t assume that there is a vindictive or deceptive reason for doing so.  Perhaps they are considering the impact of what they might say and sparing the feelings of those around them.

To make an assumption on what you see is inviting error.  Dr. Ekman called this the Othello Error.  Making an assumption that what you see means something specific rather than looking at the alternative possibilities.

Just what are you capable of?

So many people have the nay-say attitude, they stand in your way telling you that things can’t be done, that’s not going to happen, you won’t succeed.

For many years I myself felt that I would not accomplish much, and the biggest nay-sayer was myself.  I spent my early working years on a YTS scheme.  For those of you not brought up during the Thatcher years in the UK, this was a way of replacing the Apprenticeship system to get people out of school and straight into work.  Paying a basic limited wage with the intention of learning skills for a job.  I didn’t want this to be my life, but I had bills to pay.

From the age of sixteen I have steered my own path and made of myself what I could.  I am by no means an entrepreneur, but I can say that all my accomplishments have been my own.  Despite being told “you can’t do that!”

The only person that knows what you are capable of, is you!

It is very easy when we are low, when we seem to keep coming up against barriers in trying to accomplish things, to fall into a pattern enforced by people who have no concept of the damage that they can do.

If I had accepted what others believed, I would never have spent eight years as a successful Club DJ.  A career I loved with a passion.  It was hard work.  I worked late nights and usually had to follow those with long waits on station platforms waiting for a train back home.

When I became ill in 2005 and I had to make a decision to leave that life behind for something with more stability.  At the time I really had no choice over that decision, so I never grieved for that loss.  But what would have happened if I would have listened to the people saying that is not a real job?

It is very easy to fall into the trap of self-doubt.  Let us face facts, there are many people out there that are willing to put you down and get in your way if it will further their own agenda.  It can seem like every direction you turn starts to bring up a brick wall and your self-esteem starts to suffer. Don’t let it!

Next time you find yourself questioning your own abilities, or someone else does, remember, only you can know what you are truly capable of.  The challenge is going beyond that boundary to accomplish something more.  Then think of the satisfaction you will have of a job well done.  Let us be honest to ourselves, a little bit of shameful joy at proving the nay-sayers wrong is very satisfying.

Consider also before you discredit someone else’s ideas, consider the impact that might have, and look at a different way of delivering the message.

Remaining positive is key and the Stanislavski method has some elements that can help with this.  When you construct an emotion on your face and in your body posture you will actually start to feel elements of that emotion.  If you start to smile you will start to feel the happier emotion itself.  If you start looking angry you will feel the irritation and frustration you associate with anger.   Use this method to your advantage.  Next time you are feeling that low ebb, raise your head, jut out your chin, square your shoulders and challenge the world to a fight of wills you know you can win!

The Truth

Terry Pratchett stated in his book ‘The Truth’, “A lie can get around the world before the truth has its boots on!”

From our earliest years, right from the moment we start to communicate (from as young as 6 months old it is believed) we develop the ability to deceive.  There are so many reasons to lie:  to protect ourselves, to protect others, for some personal gain or to spare someone’s feelings.  But is there ever a reason that a lie could be justified?  Could the motives for the lie excuse the lie itself? And can we always be sure someone is telling the truth?

Firstly, let us remember one of the key tenets of the lie catcher:  There is no single indicator for a lie.  What you do get are hints and pointers that something might not be quite right, what Dr Ekman calls ‘hotspots’.  Individually these do not indicate a lie, merely that there is something happening that justifies a further investigation.  When you put these hotspots together you get a clearer picture that something is leaking out that they may be trying to keep hidden.  Again this may not be a lie, just something they don’t specifically want you to know.

Lies contain thoughts and feelings, but in order to make a lie work a lot of thought needs to take place.  This extra work is often called cognitive load; when your mind is heavily focussed on thinking, feeling starts to show through, and the feelings shown may not match the story being told.  This is emotional leakage.  The more consequential the lie, the more likely you are to leak information.

Paul Ekman tried a number of experiments around lying and detecting lies.  How people lie and looking for that holy grail of a sign of lying.   Needless to say he didn’t find his single indicator, but did find some other interesting facts.   His experiments initially were flawed, he realised quickly that people being asked to tell a lie in a lab setting had no consequence to their lie and as such were more difficult to detect.

When a lie has no consequence to it or a risk in its discovery, the emotional load is reduced.  The makes is much harder to spot.  The risk could be personal such as a loss of liberty or freedom, a risk to health or even personal gain.  If a lie doesn’t matter it may not show unless someone’s own personal moral compass is set in such a way that lies are considered taboo.

In order to increase the tension in the situation Dr. Ekman added some factors to the test.  He offered financial reward if they could successfully get a lie past him.  He left his students in a room with an envelope that contained a sum of money.  He told them that they could take the money or leave it.  If they took the money they would have to convince him that they hadn’t.  If they were successful they would get to keep the cash.  Secondly he also told them at the start of their interview that he would be able to tell when they were lying and he has never failed.  He had just increased the apprehension about being caught and there was a financial risk in place.   Suddenly the emotional leakage increased and the lies became significantly more obvious.

To detect a lie you increase the chances when there is some risk to the liar.

People also find it more difficult to lie convincingly if they have an emotional connection to the subject of the lie.  Dr. Ekman further emphasised this with another experiment with another study group.  The group was told to describe a pleasant scene that they saw on a film.  Half of the group were shown a film of flowers and gardens and asked to describe what they saw.  The second group was shown a film of a rather involved surgical procedure but were still asked to describe a scene of flowers and gardens.

In the experiment nearly all the people asked to lie were spotted.  They all leaked a very fast, subtle expression of disgust despite their more over demeanour of happiness.

We know that someone who feels no emotional connection to the subject and fears no consequence of being discovered is more likely to escape their lie being discovered.  This is also one of the failings of the lie detector test or as it is more properly known the Polygraph.  Lie detector itself is a misnomer as it does not detect lies.  What it does measure are changes in the Autonomous Nervous System.  Heart rate, body temperature, respiration and perspiration.  All of these are signs of Emotional Arousal, not lies. Fear of being discovered and fear of being disbelieved look exactly the same.  Excitement and fear look very similar to the polygraph.  The advantage of the human over any machine so far created is we can determine the emotion being felt and probe appropriately.

Some people say that the eyes are a good sign of a liar, that they will avert their eyes from you while they are lying.  Others maintain that a liar is more likely to hold your gaze to see if a lie has been believed.  At the moment there have been no confirmed studies that prove one way or the other, regardless of what the body language books tell you.

There are also other theories that rubbing the nose is a sign of a lie.  Again not strictly true.  The nose contains erectile tissue that expands when extra blood flows to it.  This happens during moment of emotional arousal causing it to tingle.  The key here is emotional arousal not lie. and you need to understand what emotions are causing this any why.

A lot of body language books put great store in illustrators and manipulators.  Illustrators are the visual punctuations to verbal statements.  The visual way of exclaiming and underlining.  Think back to the film footage of Adolf Hitler’s speeches.  He used a lot of illustrators.   When speaking from memory or something you passionately believe in illustrators tend to be visible.  When cognitive load increased illustrators tend to decrease.  Again not necessarily a sign of a lie, just that a lot of though it going on.

Manipulators are the comforting gestures.  Many exponents of body language cite these as reliable signs that someone is uncomfortable.  Yes they do appear more with discomfort; however, they are very easily controlled and suspended.  They can be reduced with very little effort.

A lie can sometimes be very difficult to spot because as Sir Terry said, it can get around the world before it has its boots on.  Detecting a lie can take time and patience compounded by the fact that most of us are biased to accept what we are told as truth.

 

Flirt, Flirt, Flirt

“She/He is just flirting with you to get what she/he wants!”  Sound familiar?  Are we all guilty of using sex as a weapon?

Well, yes, actually we are, and we are probably not even aware that we do it.

Sometimes a flirt is so full on that the phrase “Throwing themselves at him/her” could be used.  But there are more subtle flirts that may no be consciously noted.  The touch of the arm in conversation, the slight bite of the lip, the focussed gaze on the mouth.  They may not be noticed unless you are looking for them, but on a subliminal level you have probably already reacted to them.

Probably the most obvious flirts are things like the touch, or the grooming. Picking lint from someone’s shoulder.  One of the more common ones and not often noticed is the head dip.  The slight angling of the head to one side while listening and the subtle enlargement of the eyes.  The act of exposing the neck in ingrained in us as a passive gesture that we can find it very hard to control.  It demonstrates vulnerability, passivity and submission. This can be very subtle and is more common in women than it is with men.  There are some body-language guides that suggest this posture is a great way of building rapport as it is like lending an ear.  I disagree.  Remember that this head dip is a sign of vulnerability.  If someone is coming to you for advice and support they want strength and positive attitude.  This head dip could be interpreted as a weakness in this case.  Add to that cognitive load while listening and you come off looking confused and weak.

Flirts can be used successfully, as long as they are not overdone, but you need to ask yourself is it appropriate to manipulate another like this?

Sales people can make use of the flirt, they can cover and divert away from concerns.  When selling a product you are also selling yourself. These little flirts are making little insincere promises. The lean of the head, the lick of the lips, hair tucked behind the ear and the tilted head with a ghost of a smile.  Or for the men the posturing Alpha.  Hand on the hips and chest thrust forward,  head held high.  Hands in the pockets with the thumb showing or thumbs tucked in the belt line are all great alpha flirts.   Timing a flirt well if it is received can have a very positive effect.  However, if the flirt is not received well… you have just distanced yourself.

The use of the flirt may not be particularly ethical but as I have said we tend to do it without even realising it.  This can increase with “reflective empathy”

As a race we humans are a tribe.  Before we used words, posture and facial expression was our way of communicating and this is still ingrained into us these days.  We still mirror other people’s emotional signals as an indicator that we are aware of their current feelings.  Being interested in someone else’s flirt will naturally cause a flirt response or a rejection.

The danger comes when the flirt progresses too far.  Over do it and suddenly what you are offering is not really on the table.   You then have the situation of developing rejection that could completely undermine any progress you have made.

I try to avoid flirts if at all possible.  They are too easy to misconstrue.  I am a firm believer that if you are going to sell something, do it on its own merits, not by offering yourself up into the bargain.

Personal space is very important to people, especially here in the UK.  Invading someone’s personal space can be very intrusive and leave people feeling very uncomfortable especially when it is not invited.  Think of how you feel stood in a lift when suddenly a lot of people get in.  All people you are unfamiliar with pressed in close to you.

Touching is generally taboo unless it is invited; certainly in the UK where a handshake is about the limit of acceptable with someone you have never met before.

Flirts can be fun and exciting, but I would heartily recommend that you keep them out of the business world.  Unless of course you are a prostitute.

Emotional Salary

One of the biggest issues that I have come across quite regularly is the how companies, especially larger companies, have a lack of understanding in the emotional need of their staff.

When people start to look for a new job what are the things they look for?  Does the job match their own skill set?  What is the salary like, what benefits are included such as pension, healthcare and holiday entitlement.  But how many people investigate what sort of emotional salary and considerations a company pays.

Emotional salary can cover a number of things.  What support structure is in place to manage stress, sickness and absence?  Is that structure supportive or punitive? How accommodating are the company to the fact of day to day home life issues that occur.  How to they support the work life balance.  Do they allow staff to be themselves and display elements of individuality, or are they expected to conform to an established norm?

The morale of staff should always be one of the highest considerations for any company.  Happy staff are productive staff!  We all know this, especially in financially difficult times, when tough decisions have to be made.  The only way to make these changes successfully is to engage the staff and get them on board to help with the changes that have to happen.

People are naturally resistant to change, but the more unhappy someone is the more resistant they become.  A huge change for a business needs all the staff behind it for it to work.  Remember that the staff are the business.

Disgruntled staff become consistently resistant to change.  They raise their issues and get brushed off by unfeeling management.  There was a quote, and forgive me I don’t know the origin of it, that states “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”; never a truer word said.   Staff need to understand the reason why things are happening to them and being told “because this is how we are now doing it”, suddenly morale drops further.

This is the downward spiral.  Once faith in management has been lost, it becomes almost impossible to get it back.

The first thing that you can guarantee on is that when the job market improves there will be a mass exodus leaving your severely understaffed.  You will have to restart recruitment, training and with no experience staff that will take time and money.  Would it not be better to spend some money and time in the difficult times to keep your staff happy and build that loyalty; or is it better to spend significantly more money replacing the staff that have lost faith.

Keep your staff happy, invest in the way they feel, invest in their happiness and freedom of expression and you will end up with a more productive, faithful workforce.  Spend the time and money to make them happy and they will repay you by working harder and smarter.

Remember though that this should be a consistent approach, just throwing money at a problem will not make it go away.  People talk, and being labelled as an employer that doesn’t care may damage your chances of further recruitment of quality staff.   There are very small things that can be done to make the place a happier place to be.  Allow casual wear, make your office comfortable with places to go that are away from the workstations.  Consider your staff with morale boosting events.  Buying doughnuts may be a nice sweet treat, but does that cater for everyone?  How about fruit instead.  Have it on hand all the time they provide energy, essential vitamins and are a nice treat.

Some companies cater out their team building to outside agencies.  There is nothing wrong with this in itself, but who knows your staff better than you?  Who knows your team dynamic and where development is needed?

Outside agencies can give you ideas, support and the tools to do it, but team building should be something a company should be doing for itself.  Getting someone else to do it for you just builds another barrier between the managers and the staff.

Take responsibility for the emotional wellbeing of staff and they will take care of the overall well being of your company.