Love hormones for employee well being!! What the heck??

I was introduced to Oxytocin in 2011 during a seminar on ‘organizational strategy & the next generation of leadership’ in New Delhi and since then it has been a topic of great interest and learning for me. But wait! Are you wondering“What the heck hormones have to do with organizational strategy & employee engagement??” I thought the same when I learnt it the first time. Read on!

For starters; Oxytocin is a hormone that’s made in the brain and released in large quantities during child labor and is a facilitator of child birth & breast feeding. Often quoted as the primary reason for the mother and child bonding and hence called as the “bonding hormone”. Other nick names for oxytocin includes‘love hormone’ & ‘cuddle hormone’ and ‘moral molecule’.

But the love hormones are not just at play for the mother and the child bonding. Research over the years* have proven time and again that oxytocin is a key player responsible for empathy, morality, trust, phycological stability, compassion and healthy relationships. Now, these are BIG words alright and are the key ingredients to build a strong, closely knit and high performing teams in an organization. Research shows that top 10% of the highest performing employees released 72% more oxytocin compared to the overall population.  Not just for humans, oxytocin plays a similar role for all mammals. Research also suggests oxytocin at play for the bonding and trust between dogs and humans.

With employee engagement being at the core of an organization’s success combined with the talent attraction war between companies, it’s important to take the people management & leadership to a new level and have leaders and organizations focus and understand the behind the scene phycological aspects and levers to drive the desired output. Same concept as understanding & driving the inputs to impact the output metric prevalent in the world of six sigma & process improvement.

Good news for corporations is that oxytocin is also available as a prescribed drug (nasal spray). May be for your next budget planning, you can include a line item for oxytocin and purchase oxytocin spray in large quantities and spray it all over your workplace. Love and trust will be in the air all over your campus. Seriously, oxytocin sprays are available in the market as a prescribed drug for expecting mothers. But NO, the spraying the spray in your office thing was just a joke (in case if you didn’t catch it). And I am not responsible if you choose the spray path 🙂

We all release oxytocin on a daily basis and there are special situations, occasions, environments that enables a higher release of oxytocin. For example, when you are talking to someone whom you trust, when you are happy etc. It’s the responsibility of a leader to create a safe environment for the employees to release oxytocin for their overall well being that increases compassion, trust & a sense of safety and well being.  Below are some basic practices to increasing oxytocin release in anyone.

  • The 7 day “GOOD JOB” rule : In the last 7 days, have you appreciated your employees at least once and credited them for doing a great job?. Make a conscious effort to do so. Yes, at least once every seven days and No, its not too much.
  • Oxytocin keywords: Research suggests that certain keywords helps in release of oxytocin more than the others. Some of the key words include – trust, care, success, “I am there for you”,  well being, protect, safe and the word “happy” to name a few.
  • Hugging: This is the biggest source of non-drug based approach to releasing oxytocin. But please execute caution as it is not prevalent across all cultures. In some cultures it’s way too common and is a part of corporate lifestyle (example: Brazil, The Philippines etc) and in some its very uncommon (example: some middle east and asian cultures, especially hugging someone from the opposite sex). So, please be mindful of the cultural aspect.
  • Music and dancing: Helps release large amounts of oxytocin. If your business environment supports playing music in your workplace (i.e non call center, customer facing etc.). And if possible, feel free to take it a whole new level similar to Accenture call center employees in Mumbai (see video below)

Empowerment: The last but not the least and my favorite one. Empower your team with key decisions and let them know you want to and have empowered them. Team members working for micro managers according to research release oxytocin and fewer quantities compared to leaders leading their team through empowerment. You must have observed a high level of trust in teams with empowered culture, it’s due to oxytocin at play.

The intent behind me sharing the science of oxytocin is to spread the understanding of the science behind trust and wellbeing and what triggers it physically & psychologically. But above all, care for your team and organization from the bottom of your heart. That’s what matters at the end of the day above everything and will take care of the rest.

About the Author: For more information, contact Balakarthik Venkataramanan at LinkedIn Profile:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s