Sometimes our work is a “who” not a what.
“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.” —Margaret Wheatley
The most important R & R of work is not rest and relaxation — it's results and relationships. We must achieve results while building relationships.
When we sacrifice
relationships to achieve results, our long term results may become
unsustainable. And our relationships in the other areas of our life may suffer
due to lack of attention.
Sometimes our work is to engage more fully with “who” (relationships) not what.
What the experts have to say about the importance of social engagement
George Vaillant, involved in the longitudinal 75 year Grant study of Harvard men, stated the study's most important finding was the only thing that matters in life is relationships. A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn't be happy. Vaillant was fond of stating “happiness is only the cart; love is the horse.” Our focus on building relationships may pay very long term personal dividends in health and well-being.
David Rock, a popular writer on the brain at work, discovered extremely few leaders are good with both results and relationships. Based on a sample of sixty thousand managers, only 0.77% were perceived as being strong with both a goal and a social focus. Many of us need to be both mindful and intentional in developing skills and strengths around relationships and the social elements of work.
John Gottman has demonstrated that relationships are built and destroyed by our responses to hundreds of small daily interactions. We create robust relationships with healthy requests (bids) and healthy responses to others (turning towards them more than turning away from them). Relationships can be strengthened in the moment and even our work on relationships can be done in moments.
The link between social relationships and employee engagement
Gallup’s Q12 survey has generated controversy with the specific question: Do you have a best friend at work?
This question seems too personal, almost a little creepy.
The dilemma for Gallup is that it's such a good indicator of employee engagement and produces results that cannot be dismissed. We don’t want to cultivate false friendships, but authentic friendships at work should be honored not denigrated.
Of course, we're not running a social club, but without strong social bonds the glue that holds an organization together begins to harden, crack, and wither away.
On a personal note, my experience and engagement at work has been multiplied many times over by strong personal friendships. Currently, I feel so fortunate to work with my friend, John. We've known each other for 45 years, since junior high school, and our work is better together.
Here are 8 tips to strengthen your social engagement at work:
- Be both mindful and intentional when focusing on relationships and relationship building.
- Don’t be creepy in your approach to fostering relationships – ensure the purpose of your relationship-building is not merely self-interest.
- Demonstrate strong respect for others while also caring for what they're trying to achieve.
- Engage with social media to foster ties with many people and make the effort to strengthen a few of them. (See note)
- Appreciate and recognize others for who they are and what they do.
- Make the effort to share your mealtimes with others and be both socially and physically nourishing.
- Know that relationships are built and destroyed in moments – make healthy bids and generate responses that turn you towards others not away from them.
- Acknowledge that in today’s workplace the dictum “if it's to be, it's up to me” has been supplanted by “if it's to be, it's up to we.”
Note: It's important to understand that social media may or may not involve social engagement. It's self-deceptive to believe that broadcasting a few tweets, liking a few updates, or writing a short blog post is being social. Social media offers the tools to develop stronger connections and relationships, but we must go beyond broadcasting to authentic connecting.
Your turn: How do you actively cultivate social relationships at work?