Misjudging Moods: The Connection Between Brexit and Workplace Culture

The implications of the Brexit vote are far reaching and momentous; the economic and political effects are only just now being felt, but I’m more interested in the social aspect of the vote from the perspective of workplace culture.

In my experience, many workplaces are home to a total disconnect between upper management and general employees. Whether it’s values, goals, or general emotions about work, this disconnect can lead to a multitude of different conditions that create toxic workplace cultures, like a lack of trust, pervasive bullying and low productivity. In short, when managers completely fail to understand the points of view of their employees, workplace culture tends to go downhill.

Enter the Brexit vote – from an outsider’s perspective, it appears as though the political elites in the UK wholly misunderstood the emotions and plights of the average people. This disconnect allowed many UK voters to be swayed by general language, biases and misinformation in the media that took advantage of their frustrations. The political establishment misread the mood of the public, leading to a monumental (and potentially catastrophic) decision that is being felt the world over.

This is why emotional intelligence is so essential – both from a workplace culture perspective and a political perspective in terms of the Brexit vote. Managers should be aware of their employees’ feelings to avoid poisonous workplace cultures; similarly, the establishment of the political landscape need to be aware of the feelings of their constituents in order to effectively lead them. Understanding why people feel the way they do is the best way to diagnose issues and work together to solve them. A lack of understanding leads people to target issues that cloud how they’re really feeling – which is what appears to have happened in terms of the Brexit, which may not hold the solutions to the many real concerns UK citizens have about economic instability. In much the same way as employers use mass layoffs as a first rather than last resort, the British people seem to have taken the Brexit option as a first rather than last resort – and both have happened as the result of a fundamental disconnect between emotion and action.

While UK and EU citizens will undoubtedly continue to have mixed feelings on the Brexit vote, the fact that the top Google search in the UK was “What is the EU?” goes to show how essential communication and awareness are. Hopefully, this example will serve as a powerful lesson for the USA come November.

Image Credit: Al Jazeera