Motivate Employees by Changing One Word

Members ask us all the time, “What motivates employees?” One powerful motivator is the feeling of trust, connection, and belonging. According to research, the performance and engagement of employees who don’t experience trust, connection, and belonging will almost certainly suffer.

Theoretically, the workplace should be able to fulfill an individual’s need for connection and belonging. We use the words “team” and “teamwork” throughout our organizations, but although we may set team goals, hold team meetings, and evaluate individuals based on their team performance, very few people actually work in teams.

Telling people they will work in a team environment implies that their need for connection and belonging will be fulfilled when in reality it most likely will not be. Thanks to new research by Priyanka Carr and Greg Walton of Stanford University, we know now that one powerful way to avoid this unrealized expectation is to change the word “teamwork” and instead say “together.”

According to Carr and Walton’s research, the effects of simply substituting the word “together” for “teamwork” were profound. The word “together” is a powerful social cue to the brain. In and of itself, it seems to serve as a kind of relatedness reward, signaling that you belong, that you are connected, and that there are people you can trust working with you toward the same goal.

Leaders and managers would be wise to make use of this word change. In fact, don’t let a communication opportunity go by without using it. Let “together” be a constant reminder to your employees that they are not alone.