Over half of senior leaders now say that they are experiencing loneliness, a figure that is increasing and is probably higher than that. Over 60% of senior leaders say that loneliness has a negative impact on their performance.

Should you be new to the role of CEO or senior leader 70% say they experience loneliness.

Recent research shows that across the developed world more and more people are feeling lonely. Despite living in a world where we are more connected than ever before, we feel lonelier than ever. Loneliness is an issue outside of work but it has also become an issue within the workplace too.

Why leadership can be a lonely place

  • You have to keep confidential information about people and the company. This makes you avoid relationships with others where you might have to answer difficult questions or feel uncomfortable about decisions that need to be made
  • As a leader you may feel that there is an expectation from others that you must not show any vulnerability, have any problems or share personal issues
  • The divide between being leader and others means that it is hard to join in with people lower than your level
  • Many leaders don’t look after their own wellbeing – they work too much, they don’t take breaks, don’t sleep enough
  • Because you have to make unpopular decisions you then find you have to keep a distance from others, or you may feel you have to avoid others
  • Because of your senior position you do not know who you can confide in
  • You may have few or no peers, and if you do you may not feel unsure who is trustworthy within your organisation
  • You spend time listening to others problems. This one-way street can be emotionally depleting especially when no one reciprocates!

Why Loneliness is Such An Issue

 As human beings we are hard wired in evolutionary terms to be part of social groups. But people are currently experiencing more loneliness in all aspects of life – new mums, the elderly and those who work remotely are particularly at risk. Despite our increased use of technology to connect with others, those connections are less meaningful, and so loneliness has increased.

Loneliness isn’t just a figment of our imagination – it really harms our health!

Research has shown that for the elderly being lonely has the same impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

 Chronic loneliness causes serious health issues and leads to:

  • Stress,
  • Burnout
  • depression,
  • anxiety,
  • sleep issues,
  • high blood pressure,
  • high cholesterol,
  • and increased risk of obesity

What is the impact of loneliness within the workplace?

Loneliness within the workplace predicts poorer workplace performance and disengagement. It can also lead to, or be a sign of, chronic exhaustion and burnout. It is strongly associated with mental health issues – stress, anxiety and depression. Within teams it can be highly problematic and can spread rapidly throughout an organisation – reducing moral and motivation and performance.

What should you do if you are lonely?

  1. Acknowledge how you feel and get some support just for you – coaching can be helpful. Or find a confidante.
  2. Create or join a peer network for senior leaders.
  3. Get someone to help you monitor and look after your wellbeing and mental health.
  4. Take lunchbreaks, instigate work-life balance, tackle your sleep issues
  5. Be more than your job – do some fulfilling and fun things outside of work.
  6. Create safe topics to connect with your team – for example talk to your team about what they do outside of work and share what you do.
  7. Express your vulnerability where it is safe to do so. Talk about how you feel with your loved ones at home.
  8. Help other younger leaders with their transition into leadership.
  9. Choose the way you connect with others carefully. Face to face contact is better than video. Video is better than phone. Phone is better than email.

As Director of The Sweet Potato Consultancy Adelle Shaw-Flach supports people and businesses who are suffering from stress and burnout.

Get in touch if you would like to find out more. adelle@thesweetpotatoconsultancy.com


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