The Workplace as Social Media

When looking at where people meet up, hook up and break up, you have to include the workplace. Young adults are now more socialized at work than they are by their families, friends and institutions. The only thing that has a greater impact on their beliefs and actions is the Internet. If this is true, why aren’t there more classes offered on creating relationships with your peers at work? Maybe team-building and conflict resolution classes can help, but most of these courses are delivered to managers.

It’s time we make sure all employees have basic skills in communication, managing change, dealing with their emotions, and building strong relationships with their peers within and across department borders. As organizations flatten, creating a cooperative culture is even more important.

I lived in a shared household when I went to graduate school in San Francisco. Every Sunday night, we held a “house meeting” where all six of us met, doled out the week’s responsibilities for maintaining the household, and talked about how we were getting along. If we needed to, we worked out conflicts so they wouldn’t carry over into the week.We had to do this if we were going to live together in peace. Shouldn’t work groups do this too?

In order to make this work, we needed to ensure that we were able to do these three things:

#1: Trust Each Other

Trust is more than doing what you say you will do. To build trust in a relationship, there should be some basic ground rules. Everyone should be able to say the following statements to their colleagues and leaders.

I believe that you care about me as a person.

I believe that you won’t judge me on second-hand information. If you hear someone saying negative things about me, you will vow to check this out for yourself.

I believe that you won’t talk negatively about me to others. If we have a problem, you will come to me to talk about it. If you have to sort things out with someone else first, you will come to me shortly after and let me know who you talked to first and why you did this.

If I have a problem with you, I will ask to speak to you privately soon after the offense occurred. I will then:

~  Get clear about what I believe you did or did not do that made me feel the way I do.

~  Listen to your perspective and try to understand what you meant

~  Work toward an agreement with you about how we will handle these situations better in the future.

#2: Honor the changes we are all experiencing

Every time priorities, job responsibilities and the make-up of the team changes, so do we. Plus, our lives outside of work are constantly changing. Each day we come to work, we are slightly different than the day before. Therefore, we should honor and support each other as we live through change. Periodically, we should renew our relationships by asking

~  How would I describe this relationship? Is it easy? Is it hard? Why?

~  What is good about this relationship right now?

~  What has been difficult lately?

~  What needs to be celebrated about how we have related so far?

~  What can we agree to leave behind?

~  What are we learning about each other?

~  What is changing?

~  What should we agree to continue/stop/start doing from this point going forward?

You might reflect on these questions first, and then choose to meet with individuals you are working with to answer the questions together.

This is an especially useful exercise when one peer is promoted or given a great new assignment above his or her friends. Looking at the new relationship will help to relieve hard feelings.

#3: Play

There is nothing more nourishing and renewing than play. To create healthy bonds at work, you need to laugh with your colleagues and share fun experiences. When you see the light shine from your co-workers eyes, you have to admit they are a human too. In truth, we are all doing our best to get by with what we know right now. This is why we want to give employees the best tools possible to succeed.

Good peer relationships are vital to a company’s success. Bad relationships can be fatal. It’s not enough to make sure everyone is talking and connecting via technology. We all have to continually talk about how we can get along better to reach our peak of effectiveness.
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