Oxytocin: The trust molecule

This post is the last in a series on worry.

circle-312343__180There’s a lot to be said about oxytocin – the cuddle, maternal and birthing hormone. Men and women who work in environments where empathy, generosity and trust prevail have higher levels of oxytocin than those who work in unispiring and unfriendly places.

People who release more oxytocin work better in a team; they worry less and react more positively to situations that arise. They feel safer and happier at work. They want to give to others and do the work. They are less vulnerable to stress induced illnesses. When we are stressed, we produce the hormone cortisol which inhibits the release of oxytocin.

Oxytocin is the hormone that stimulates lactation in breastfeeding women and promotes infant-mother bonding, love and attachment. However, women who are stressed can have difficulties breastfeeding their babies. Oxytocin also triggers uterine contractions during labour and allows women to give birth. In fact, both men and women release oxytocin when they kiss and have sexual intercourse.

Love is also good for business. Simon Sinek says that businesses that put their employees first and promote teamwork are the most stable, high-performance and innovative ones.

In the TED talk below, Professor Paul Zak at Clarmont Graduate University in Southern California explains his research on oxytocin. He concludes that the hormone – which he refers to as the trust and morale molecule – helps us connect with others and feel what others are feeling.

The workplace needs change. Too many people worry about losing their jobs. Too many employees don’t like their work but stay on to make it to retirement. Harassment and bullying are on the rise. More people work in isolation. There is less sharing, less giving and less helping. Leaders and managers create policies and implement wellness programmes to make things work, but they overlook their employees’ natural and biological inclinations. According to Sinek, leaders create a culture that inhibits the release of oxytocin in their employees.

A change in attitute from the top down is needed to instill a sense of belonging and increase trust among employees. There are too many unnecessary “fight or flight” reactions happening at the workplace. Forget using oxytocin nasal sprays or injections. Oxytocin should be naturally generated through human behaviour, as it is meant to be. Leaders and managers are the ones who need to create and maintain a work culture that can help spread the right kind of behaviour at work.

Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

3 thoughts on “Oxytocin: The trust molecule

    1. Many thanks for your comment. I am pleased to know that professionals like you are taking this seriously. People need to be aware of the effect of oxytocin on human behaviour. Sadly, too many workplaces lack empathy, generosity and trust. Nonetheless, workshops and awareness programs, like the ones that you do, can help turn things around. Every little bit helps. I wish you well. Julie

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