Building a Cohesive Workplace: Learn From the Bees

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you part of a cohesive workplace? Is everyone truly working together?

A key to creating a cohesive workplace is to think of it as a hive. Bees operate in the interest of the group rather than the self. You can tap into employees’ hiving tendencies to create a cohesive team.

Read more to learn three ways to build a cohesive workplace.

Your Workplace Is a Hive

A modern corporation is the perfect example of a hive. It has great potential to be a cohesive workplace. It’s a superorganism where tasks are split up so that everyone is doing the action that contributes the most to create a greater whole. Corporations, according to the law, can act as individuals. 

The benefits of corporations include the ability to scale up their production and pay their employees more while charging less for their products than smaller businesses (or “organisms”). 

Some companies use various and complex carrot-and-stick approaches in an attempt to control their employees. This in turn makes them act in a Glauconian manner—they care much more about a promotion or looking good in front of the boss than actually doing work that helps the group. Companies should abandon this strategy and instead use the naturally hive-minded part of humans to their benefit.

3 Ways to Build a Cohesive Workplace

To tap into employees’ hiving tendencies and create a cohesive workplace:

  • Emphasize similarities rather than differences: Don’t call attention to differences in background among people. Rather, focus on the values you do share. 
  • Use synchrony to your benefit: Some Japanese companies, such as Toyota, will literally start the day with synchronous exercise. Asking people to complete tasks where they’re all doing the same action together, such as singing a song, will make employees help each other more, leading to a more cohesive workplace.
  • Use competition between teams, not people: Soldiers are united by a common enemy and risk themselves for their team. Similarly, healthy competition between teams at the company improves the relationships among teammates. 

The bottom line is, people should think of their employment as membership in a hive. This is the key to creating a cohesive workplace.

Building a Cohesive Workplace: Learn From the Bees

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Righteous Mind summary:

  • Why we all can't get along
  • How our divergent moralities evolved
  • How we can counter our natural self-righteousness to decrease political divides

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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