EAP shares neuroscience-based ideas for cultivating cohesive teams

With her background as a therapist, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Counselor Amber Hunter-Crawford has had a longstanding interest in the connections between the mind and body and whether the human nervous system can help us in our everyday lives.

Through her research, she discovered businessman David Rock, who explored the science of how the human mind and body are connected and sought ways to apply the information to improve relationships. Through Rock’s writings, Hunter-Crawford found an approach to relationships that Rock refers to as SCARF -- Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.

“As humans, we are wired for connection,” Hunter-Crawford said. “We need to feel safe in our relationships, including those where we work.”

Hunter-Crawford discussed SCARF in an EAP blog post, and in a later interview with FAS Times she offered specific examples of actions or characteristics that have the power to cultivate a sense of safety in the workplace.

According to Hunter-Crawford, the SCARF acronym can be used by employees and managers to think through how they work with others using the following descriptions for each letter in the acronym.

  • Status. Direct, honest praise that celebrates the individual or team.
  • Certainty. Clear expectations.
  • Autonomy. Sense of control and the freedom to work independently.
  • Relatedness. Team building, one-on-one meetings and briefings.
  • Fairness. Collaboration, workload distribution and task assignments.

“Applying SCARF allows us to capitalize on how we’re wired in order to improve relations in the work environment,” Hunter-Crawford said. “How do you get to know your employees? How do we help our team—even when we are not in the same space?”

Overall, the SCARF concept can help managers and supervisors be more intentional in creating a cohesive team in which all members feel safe enough to work at their full potential, Hunter-Crawford explained.

 “SCARF is about helping ourselves and others show up fully to work every day by minimizing threats and maximizing rewards,” Hunter-Crawford said.

Hunter-Crawford suggested the following resources for more reading about SCARF:

For more topics like this, visit the EAP blog.

Director of HealthPoint Susan Harnden explained that the blog is just one of several EAP offerings intended to expand the reach of mental health services to the university workforce. In the EAP self-service model, employees can choose among a variety of services that include videos such as “Yoga for Anxiety,” flexible groups for individuals living solo and for parenting, trainings such as “Increasing Your Personal Resilience,” handouts on a variety of mental health topics and a webpage of referrals and resources. Earlier this year, the EAP and Wellness joined to offer Recharge, a three-day virtual event in which counselors offered short, topical sessions.

 “For a long time, we have been looking for ways to reach more employees more creatively,” Harnden said. “We have to be creative because the needs and access to services are so diverse. The diversity of needs and disparity in access was magnified in the past year. Our expanded self-serve options increased access.”