The Correlation Between Communication And Happiness
Recently, while discussing employee survey results with a client, I was asked if there was a correlation between communication and happiness. The short answer is yes, but there is a lot more to it than such a simple reply. Based on this question, I thought I would share some high-level information on how communication impacts happiness and some of the other critical areas that leaders need to consider.
Properly functioning Scrum teams, by definition, are highly autonomous. More team autonomy for teams that perform complex and dynamic work is generally linked to higher team member satisfaction and increased team performance. But team autonomy is also linked to psychological isolation, which has a detrimental impact on happiness and corporate citizenship. This has been especially prevalent during the COVID-19 work from home era.
Communication not only helps to offset this feeling of isolation but also leads to other additional benefits. For example, clear, constant communication is conducive to avoiding conflicts among employees (both inter-and intra-team). Scrum's 3-5-3 model promotes the right amount of communication at the right times. Additionally, team members will be required to communicate on their own as needed, in working in a Scrum environment, which furthers the positive impacts.
As an aside, one very important thing to consider in virtual teams, or teams not physically in the same place, is the use of video. Research shows without a doubt that the use of video communication over any other type of communication is preferred. So, using Zoom without video is the same as a phone call; The video is the important part. Four things that the research shows are:
- Accuracy of communication is noticeably better when using video instead of just audio
- The benefit is regardless of the language used
- The benefit is amplified when any (or all) of the parties are speaking in their non-native language
As leaders, it is important to instill trust in your team members both with leadership and amongst themselves. Trust improves team member's psychological safety and reduces their psychological distance. The most preferred method is face-to-face social interaction. The second most preferred way is through media-rich communication (such as video conferencing as mentioned above). The communication from leadership must be two-fold. It must be from the leader to the team member, to promote the one-on-one relationship, as well as to the team as a whole, to promote and reinforce the unity and importance of the team.
Leaders also have the critical job of resolving team conflict which is more difficult in virtual teams than in colocated teams. In a colocated environment where team members are face to face is more likely to be considered personal conflict in virtual teams. Setting up team norms in communication, positive assumptions, and working out disagreements (real or imagined) are important and should be done upfront, with the teams agreeing on these items, but leadership ensuring they are in place and not superficial.
All of the above comes together under several theories, including Self Determination Theory (SDT). SDT rests on the concept that when a person's three primary needs are met, they are the most functional and engaged (happy). Those three needs are 1) competent in what they do, 2) being autonomous, and 3) having relationships with others and having meaningful interactions.
The first item is answered by their professional skills as part of the Scrum team. The second item is how Scrum teams operate but must be reinforced through actions and words of leadership to show it is real, not just "lip service". Finally, the third item is through the constant communication that Scrum rests upon, and in the points discussed above to help that communication be truly effective.