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The big boss is wearing friendship bracelets. How the ‘universal language’ of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé is helping life at work

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The big boss is wearing friendship bracelets. How the ‘universal language’ of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé is helping life at work

 

At professional services firm KPMG, managing director Rob Breakiron feels more popular among his entry-level colleagues than he should be as a 45-year-old. He has an unlikely ally in building this office reputation: Taylor Swift.

 

The big boss is wearing friendship bracelets. How the ‘universal language’ of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé is helping life at work

Breakiron’s affinity for Swift has made him, like many of the “Mastermind” singer’s songs, a hit. He often wears Swift’s merchandise or friendship bracelets from her ongoing Eras tour on team calls. The visual cues aren’t missed by fans of the 14-time Grammy winner’s music, and it helps build connections that can establish him as a trusted mentor.

“It very much directly impacts my ability to connect to the younger generation,” said the northern Virginia resident. “I don’t think it should be underestimated.” Breakiron is known within his division as the “Swiftie Dad.” After attending multiple tour stops with his daughter, and with more planned over the summer, he’s become a go-to source for teammates seeking concert-related advice.

Coming out of the remote-work era, companies are attempting to reset expectations around norms such as what to wear and how to communicate. In a period rife with headbutting on everything from politics to return-to-office mandates, superstar performers Swift and Beyoncé are providing co-workers across generations and seniority levels with safe terrain to bond over.

The trend first sprouted last year as the pop icons crisscrossed the U.S. on tour. Now, with new albums from both performers topping charts in recent weeks and Swift’s show restarting this month, the two are once again often the topic du jour by water coolers or at the sometimes-awkward start of virtual meetings.

This can be welcome in the post-pandemic world of work, given the continued difficulty of building relationships in hybrid or all-online settings, according to associate professor Angela Hall of Michigan State University’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations. These ties can help people feel more supported and happy in their roles, she said, which is a plus for both employees and executives at a time of worker apathy.

“Anything that can get people to form a connection, a bond, an affinity, is really important — whether it’s Beyoncé or Taylor, whether it’s the fact that they like to bake, or they have pets,” Hall said. “If people can connect on that level, it can only make things better.”

Hall pointed to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management that showed 45% of workers surveyed feel “emotionally drained” by their jobs and more than half feel “used up” at the end of the workday. Those stats contribute to a sour picture of American labor sentiment following years defined by “quiet quitting” and the “great resignation.”

And employees who report feeling burned out are almost three times more likely to be actively looking for a new job, the research found. But there’s a key caveat: Those who feel a strong sense of belonging in their company are 2½ times less likely to feel burned out in the first place.

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