To make people more trustworthy and empathetic, we need the medicine of morality – oxytocin. The mother loves her child because her brain produces a chemical called oxytocin. Oxytocin, it is said, is at the core of all our virtues, from trust to empathy to cooperation and support. Paul J Zak, Dr Love, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, spent the last decade running experiments to understand the proclivity for good or evil in human beings. In 2004, he discovered a key role for the neurochemical oxytocin in motivating us to behave in moral or pro-social ways. That is,when the brain makes oxytocin, people are demonstrably more generous, trustworthy and compassionate. Zak called oxytocin the ‘moral molecule’ and he wrote a book about it in 2012, which focused,in part, on this discovery but mostly on how people can use this knowledge to improve their relationships; be more productive at work; understand and treat psychiatric and neurological disorders; improve negotiations and stimulate prosperity. Dr Love uses the moral molecule to bring change in individuals, improving organisational performance, productivity, employee engagement and happiness.
The organisational work is a direct outgrowth of his work on the neuroscience of morality and leverages his cross-disciplinary approach – empathy as a powerful tool in business. The emotions like empathy are very important; love and trust are counted alongside more ‘classically accepted’ drivers of business success like aggression and ruthlessness in building modern businesses. Economics without ethics is like eyes without sight. We need to stop calling human beings a resource to justify change in the nomenclature. Human beings are not a resource to be used and replaced to make earnings and income. People are highly motivated to work when they are seen as human beings with aspirations, emotions, families, fears, and all the oddities that make them interesting. Being an empathetic leader means embracing these elements and understanding how wonderful (and frustrating) it can be to work with people.
Treat people well and they will release oxytocin and they’ll want to treat others well.This is one of the important factors which create trust in caring. Trust reduces friction in doing business and leads to more engaged and productive workplaces. We need to note that morality impacts our decisions every day, and our choices are directed by our conscience. We must examine the origin of conscience. Many people hold on to the idea that conscience is a matter of our hearts and that concepts of right,wrong, and fairness are ‘programmed’ in each of us.This is in keeping with the writings of Paul the Apostle, who points out that even those who do not believe in God frequently obey His laws. Those who do not believe in God are left with the conclusion that our decisions are based solely on our need to survive. Let our
conscience be based on learning, if not the divine design of God.
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