Believe it or not, we’re actually now spending more time with coworkers than family; this is true of almost 80% of people who work thirty to fifty hours a week. So it’s probably not surprising that research indicates we’re increasingly viewing our coworkers as direct extensions of our family. Group dynamic researchers say the parallel should make intuitive sense considering that the first organization people ever belong to is their families, with parents the first bosses and siblings the first colleagues. “Our original notions of an institution, of an authority structure, of power and influence are all forged in the family,” says Warren Bennis, the late management guru.
So since we’re there already, why not take a closer look at the best (and worst) of family dynamics to create through-the-roof camaraderie?
It’s worth the pursuit. Studies show that top-rated places to work share a sense of camaraderie as a key ingredient in their success formula. And the “add-on” effects of camaraderie in the workplace are astounding; nearly 40 percent of survey respondents named their coworkers as the top reason they love working for their company, 66 percent said those positive relationships increased their productivity, and 55 percent said they helped mitigate their on-the-job stress levels.
Now, if you stop and think about the attributes of a happy family, you’ll soon realize the number of traits that would be applicable for creation of a close-knit group in the workplace. And while each unhappy corporate family is unhappy in its own way, happy corporate families are all alike. They:
- Make heartfelt connections with one another, showing warmth and an interest to connect
- Openly and honestly communicate (even over-communicate) with one another
- Have a sense of watching one another’s back, and that “we’re all in this together”
- Are fiercely committed to each other and put each other first
- Share goals and values, uphold family codes
- Enjoy each other
- Have compassion and move towards rather than away from one another in crisis
- Help each other grow and support each other
The idea is to keep the nuclear family metaphor front and center and to strive to embed family values into your own workplace culture. But as you do so, it’s important to be mindful of darker family theatrics that all too often play out at work. Research in workplace dynamics indeed confirms that people tend to recreate their own family dramas at the office. Do any of these situations seem familiar?
- Over the top or desperate plays for approval from bosses
- Backstabbing of and bickering with scene-stealing co-workers
- Bickering in meetings like at the family dinner table
- Shying away from authority figures
- Harboring petty jealousies towards co-workers
- Hypercritical judgment of subordinates or co-workers
The key is to bring all the best of a caring, family mindset to an organizational culture while leaving behind all the subconsciously engrained worst aspects. A failure to at least do the latter can lead to a substantive productivity drain. A two-year study by Seattle psychologist Brian DesRoches found that “family conflict” type dramas routinely waste 20 to 50 percent of workers’ time.
How might your behaviors change if you acted as if your co-workers were actually family? Would you exhibit the powerful “happy family” behaviors previously listed?
It’s a filter that can drastically change your day to day interactions with others and maximize meaning derived from your relationships in the process.
It’s our pleasure today to bring you a guest post from Scott Mautz, author of Find the Fire: Reignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again. -Karin & David