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Should We Treat Co-workers Like Family?

As employees researchers one of the most common comments we see from employees when asked what they like best about their organization is that it ‘feels like a family’. Given we spend the majority our lives either at work or with Family it is not surprising that there are parallels in the way we view these two parts of our lives. Many of us think work should feel like family and we assess our happiness based on the presence or absence of that feeling.

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After all, our co-workers are like family because we don’t get to choose who we work with just as we don’t choose our siblings. We also spend more time with our co-workers often than with our immediate families. Our relationships with our co-workers, by virtue of the amount of time and interactions we have with them, will impact our work and our attitude towards the place we work in good and bad ways so it is important to foster the kind of relationships that benefit our work most.

Yet it may actually be dangerous for employees to function as a family. Consider that when we develop close bonds with people, we are more willing to do whatever is needed to help. Doing whatever it takes to help a co-worker can backfire especially if some employees take advantage of others and don’t pull their own weight. If this happens, overtime bad feelings develop and this family feeling can become an “inefficient and demoralizing way to work” according to professor Art Markman.

Markman—a professor at University of Texas at Austin and the author of Smart Thinking: Three Essential Keys to Solve Problems, Innovate, and Get Things Done—writes in the Harvard Business Review that relationships in the workplace fit in three categories: strangers, neighbors, and family.

He says neighborly relationships are good for work because, with neighbors, "we try to balance what we do for them and what we get from them over time," constructing a "common vision" to work toward shared goals.

Markman offers several tips for organizations trying to foster neighborly relationships among their employees: 

  1. Invest in training. Training programs that help employees develop personal and professional skills show that the company cares about their long-term success and development. Supporting people's long-term goals builds a sense of community.
  2. Provide personal connections to upper management. Business units that feel isolated may bond together locally, but not feel like they are part of a larger, company-wide community. When upper management is engaged throughout the company, people also feel valued as individuals. Being part of the neighborhood means the organization knows who its employees are and cares, not just about people but about the individual.
  3. Connect individual work to the big picture. When employees see their work tasks as part of the larger goals of the organization, they develop a shared send of purpose—like in a neighborhood. Being bound together by the desire to create a community benefits everyone.
  4. Cultivate a sense of stewardship among managers. When managers feel responsible for creating a sense of community, employees who begin to feel disconnected are given resources to engage with company's broader mission.

Signs that an organization is slipping can be when employees no longer support initiatives and begin to act and work like strangers. As employee researchers, we specialize in understanding the culture of your workplace and can help you understand where you stand in terms of relationships and perceptions and if your employees do feel demoralized then perhaps it is time to  re-think your emphasis on building a ‘family’ at work. Contact us for more information by calling Lynn Gore at 866-802-8095 ext 722, or write to us at [email protected] or to learn more or request a quote visit our website here.

This post first appeared on Insightlink 4Cs Blog: Employee Surveys And More | Insightlink Communications, please read the originial post: here

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Should We Treat Co-workers Like Family?


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