Inspired by BR’s #FUTUREOFWORK, Andra Bria, an up-and-coming digital product designer and entrepreneur, passionate about HR, creative communication, and psychology, wrote an article for Business Review about the 5 most important tactics team leaders should implement in order to create a safer and friendlier work environment for their employees. Read the full piece below:
5 tactics you can implement in your team today
By Andra Bria
Taking a look at HBR’s latest articles, I can’t help but noticing the amount of topics on emotional intelligence at work. Office dynamics matter now more than anything; no wonder Google indicated that psychological safety was critical to making a team work.
In the artificial intelligence era, leaders can only differentiate themselves by placing a high value on the emotional. Here I’ve highlighted a few ideas on how to do that:
1. Turn off the (micro) managing
A micro manager focuses on the smallest tasks, follows and evaluates every step of the work of his or her colleagues in an obsessive manner, being unable to delegate or trust his employees. The micro manager never sees themselves as such, mistakenly thinking that their management style is “structured and organized”. Over time, this style of leading causes disengagement of employees, who often end up losing the confidence they have in themselves.
Maintaining ownership of information is another mark of traditional leaders. From a power perspective, information is power. Not sharing information among colleagues allows traditional leaders to maintain authority and control.
The ideology of management is controlling. We need a different ideology, one around self-management and responsibility, one that does not undermine freedom, adaptability, creativity or engagement.
2. What if we created a new system where there aren’t any titles, where there’s no promotion?
Where people don’t compete for titles, because there is no formal hierarchy, but what they do compete for is to add value.
Where you’re more valuable to your colleagues, if you’re solving more complicated problems, if you’re working on more initiatives and more projects. Then that’s going to be recognized, including in your compensation, and you will feel more accountable to your peers than to your bosses. What if an employee was on authority every day, by the value they add? And if they stop adding value, their authority dissipates.
The traditional leadership style of top down management should be slowly evolving into a collaborative approach that empowers employees and blurs the lines between boss and worker.
3. Normalise talking about mental health
In our culture speaking about emotions is seen as a weakness, especially in the workplace, and especially for women, who are taught to “toughen up”. This behaviour is automatically expected of men, who are not allowed to show any sensitive side.
If we’re feeling emotional at work, our impulse is to conceal it — to hide in the bathroom when we’re upset, or book a fake meeting if we need alone time during the day. We’re hesitant to ask for what we need — flex time, or a day working from home.
Employees and managers alike need to understand that mental illness is not a weakness, and we shouldn’t shame people or make them feel guilty for having it. Given the right support, employees who struggle with their mental health can do great work. One in four adults experiences mental illness each year  and suffering from anxiety or depression shouldn’t be a career-flaw.
When we acknowledge our mental health, we get to know ourselves better, and are more authentic people, employees, and leaders. Research has found that feeling authentic and open at work leads to better performance, engagement, employee retention, and overall wellbeing. 
So how do you break the taboo and make your company a place of flexibility, sensitivity, and open-mindedness? Schedule a session to talk about anxiety or depression. Just talk about it and see what happens.
4. Create a feedback-rich environment
“Statistical systems require feedback—something to tell them when they’re off track. Without feedback, however, a statistical engine can continue spinning out faulty and damaging analysis while never learning from its mistakes.”
So if even machines need feedback, then why aren’t we using it to improve human behaviour?
In technical teams, there are the retrospectives where members of the team are analysing the week in course and proposing improvements for the week ahead. They are also a reserved time to look at how the team is working together. Retrospectives deal with the human side of work and how to collaborate better.
What if every day, or at least every week, you would ask for feedback from your team?
Why if employees were the ones giving feedback to managers?
How did they feel, what would they do differently, what would they improve, if they are dissatisfied and for what reason. Sometimes the increased understanding between team members, and between team members and managers – knowing what makes the others ‘tick’ – is already a great leap forward and builds trust.
5. Don’t say: “You can’t play”
Did you know that regions of the brain that “regulate the distress of social exclusion” were similar to the regions that regulate physical pain? In other words, being socially rejected direcly affects your physical well being.
The rejection can have many consequences: anxiety, insecurity, anger, hostility, feelings of inadequacy, or a sense of being out of control.
That’s why it’s important that team mates know how to play nicely together and combat tendencies to hoard information, share resources, or create exclusive spaces.
Collaboration tools like Google Docs and Basecamp can’t make up for missing kindergarten, as HBR iconically says . Your organisation will only be effective if a culture of mutual trust, acceptance and inclusion is fostered, and if team effort is rewarded, as much as individual contribution.
 Excerpt From: Cathy O’Neil. “Weapons of Math Destruction.”
 Excerpt From: Kat Holmes. “Mismatch.”