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A workforce is a collection of individuals, each with their own personalities, skills and ambitions, working together to reach a common goal. In order for any workforce to be successful, it’s vital that each employee is respected for their own unique blend of characteristics, their individual resources, and given ample opportunity to develop their talents. 

Unfortunately, in many workplaces the emphasis can rest too heavily on output without taking the individual into proper consideration. What happens next? The answer is Collective Tension, and here’s how it manifests: 

Fear of action and mistakes

Collective Tension can be easily identified in workplaces where employees are nervous, stressed and under-confident. It’s no surprise really that an individual who feels undervalued at work might also begin to doubt their professional capabilities. Simply put, employees who don’t feel assured in their way of thinking will cease to voice their opinion at all. Or, if they’re unsure of their ability to complete a project, they won’t propose it or volunteer to begin with. When individuals are too afraid to take action or make mistakes, workplaces become stagnant and innovation grinds to a halt.


Individuals that feel overlooked are likely to become resentful. They might assume their personal development is not a priority and therefore, become reluctant to make their organization’s success a priority in return. As more and more employees begin to feel similarly, distrust and unease will breed Collective Tension. The resulting workforce is unresponsive, uncommunicative and unwilling to go the extra mile for the common good. 

Silo thinking

When Collective Tension is high, relationships break down and individuals become preoccupied with their own wants and needs. Predictably, this isn’t the kind of environment where collaboration thrives, but rather where division becomes the new normal. Silo thinking occurs as individuals stop looking outwards for new insights or support and as a result, communication becomes ineffective and progress is sluggish. 


Fortunately, there is a solution: Individual Empowerment. The best remedy for Collective Tension and its consequences is real development of the individual, human-to-human communication and fostering. Through learning and development initiatives that respect the workforce as a varied assembly of individuals, organizations can benefit from stronger working relationships and better communication. Collective Tension is replaced by confident, fulfilled and responsive team members.

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