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    Bamboo Blog

    Workplace Love: Developing Effective Office Camaraderie

    Workplace Love: Developing Effective Office Camaraderie

    How do you write an HR blog post for Valentine’s Day? Don’t worry, we’re not going into anything romantic. But that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss a more general kind of love in the workplace, namely, effective office camaraderie.

    Effective office camaraderie has many benefits: it increases individual employees’ happiness, It makes it easier for team members to communicate, and it can lead to improved retention rates. Also, Gallup found that employees who have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job.

    Office camaraderie has huge benefits, so it’s worth developing at your organization. All it takes is arranging 20, 50, or maybe a couple hundred different personalities. You have to make sure that so that everyone is included and no one feels frustrated, both in one-on-one interactions and at the group level.  

    Easy, right? Well, it might be if everyone felt the same way about other people. But there’s a full spectrum of how people prefer to interact with each other, ranging from social butterflies who barely tolerate sitting at their own desks to wallflowers who never look up from their monitors. Before you can create an office camaraderie that works for everyone, you need to identify and accommodate everyone’s differing need for both space and interaction.

    Some People Need Space. Others Love Company. Why?

    Our life experiences shape us differently; for one person, spending their days talking to people is the only way to go, while another might prefer space and quiet. If it were a binary question, we could have the outgoing people gather together in one massive convention hall while the “I need space” people go work in their internet-connected monasteries. But like all other personality aspects, each person’s level of introversion or extroversion falls somewhere on a spectrum and often depends on the situation.

    It takes a deeper knowledge of a person to know how they react to specific situations. For example, if you saw one of BambooHR’s co-founders, Ryan Sanders, speak at the BambooHR Summit last year, you probably wouldn’t think, “Wow, this person is shy.” But he’d be the first to half-joke that he’ll need several hours at home later to “recharge his introvert batteries.”

    Ryan has found an effective balance, one that plays on his personal strengths while overcoming some of his limitations. His introversion doesn’t get in the way of what needs to be done, whether it’s spending time alone to strategize or presenting that strategy to the entire company.

    It takes a lot of work to find that balance, and it starts with accepting different personality types as part of your work life. After all, you’re the most normal person you know, right? It’s everyone else that is overly talkative or freakishly shy.

    This tendency to give more importance to our own behavior leads to many attribution biases, including the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). Summed up, the FAE means that we’re more likely to attribute others’ behavior to their personality instead of their situation. So when the programmer doesn’t join in the daily office Nerf war, the group might think it’s because she’s an elitist snob who doesn’t like camaraderie, while the reality is she’s in the middle of a project that needs constant focus. But when both she and the game players assume that her motivation is obvious based on their biases, there’s greater potential for misunderstanding.

    These attribution biases help protect our self-esteem or our sense of social acceptance and safety. How you approach relationships isn’t something that changes quickly; in fact, most of it starts in childhood. According to relationship psychologist John Aiken, the more secure you were in your relationship with your parents, the more moderate you end up on the scale between clingy and distant. If your parents rejected you, you might try to avoid rejection by avoiding people. But if you had inconsistent attention, you might crave attention from those around you.

    Office Camaraderie Definition

    Supporting Office Camaraderie

    These insights show that it’s not a simple task to take each of your employees and nudge them into the middle of the clingy/distant scale. A policy or activity from HR isn’t going to outweigh a lifetime of deep learning. But you can set up a culture that helps encourage each employee to reach out to others for ideas and inspiration then knuckle down to get the work done.

    Consider the following when shaping your office culture.

    Balance Introversion and Extroversion

    For decades, extroverted tendencies like assertiveness, boldness, and energy have been packaged and sold as dynamic leadership. While these characteristics can help drive passive team members along, they can override contributions from more introverted members.

    There’s a psychological concept called dominance complementarity: in a nutshell, there needs to be a balance of dominant and submissive personalities to avoid friction on a team. BambooHR calls this principle Lead from Where You Are and lists it as one of our main values. The right solution to an issue can come from an introvert or an extrovert, and it depends more on the situation than anyone’s overall personality tilt. When there’s trust on all sides, introverts have space to speak up while extroverts feel comfortable sharing the spotlight.

     

     

    Research suggests that we need an average of six hours of social time to help keep stress at bay. Making room in the schedule for socializing and team-building can pay dividends in better-rested, more productive employees.

    Involve Your Managers

    This trust needs to begin with your managerial staff. Managers have the time and responsibility to interact with their team and better understand each member—not just their skills and workload, but also their personality and preferences. Each of these aspects plays a part in the employee’s experience, and, by extension, the team’s success.

    At the team level, managers can adapt your universal cultural goals to correct for personal weaknesses. They can also adapt your culture goals to the reality of their work tasks, or provide insight on how you can adjust your culture to better include everyone. Continuing the Nerf war example from earlier, feedback from the developer’s manager might help the company understand the adverse effects of their team building and decide to take such activities outside in the future.

    This isn’t to say that all social activities are a waste of time. Research suggests that we need an average of six hours of social time to help keep stress at bay. Making room in the schedule for socializing and team-building can pay dividends in better-rested, more productive employees.

    At the team level, managers can adapt your universal cultural goals to correct for personal weaknesses. They can also adapt your culture goals to the reality of their work tasks, or provide insight on how you can adjust your culture to better include everyone. Continuing the Nerf war example from earlier, feedback from the developer’s manager might help the company understand the adverse effects of their team building and decide to take such activities outside in the future.

    This isn’t to say that all social activities are a waste of time. Research suggests that we need an average of six hours of social time to help keep stress at bay. Making room in the schedule for socializing and team-building can pay dividends in better-rested, more productive employees.

    Recognize Human Tendencies

    As you work out the balance between office camaraderie and productivity, it’s important to keep a few human tendencies in mind. First is the acronym FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. Electronic notifications aren’t the only distraction vying for your employees’ attention. Even indirectly overheard conversations can activate an employee’s FOMO when it seems that something interesting is happening and they aren’t participating. Extroverts are particularly susceptible to FOMO. Many employees solve this issue with headphones, which also help make sure that one person’s amusing video doesn’t become a whole team’s hour-long conversation.

    Next is a need for privacy. As open office plans become more common, employees must face the possibility that others are watching what they do, even if they don’t know them personally or understand their role. This scenario is especially true for desks at the end of hallways or near entrances. Employees may think that they always need to look busy to avoid black marks on their performance reviews, even if that’s not the message you intend to send. If this is a problem for some of your more introverted employees, setting up desk decorations can help provide a sense of privacy, or you can consider office features such as tall plants or dividers.

    Sometimes, even these solutions don’t address an employee’s need for space. Setting up mobile technology, such as replacing desktops with laptop computers, can provide your employees with the flexibility to change locations, giving them another option to avoid distractions from both work-related and non-work-related conversations.

    Conclusion

    Office camaraderie isn’t just a nice thing to have. It shapes how your employees feel about their work days, and an eight-hour workday adds up to almost one-third of their daily lives. Providing employees with a pleasant experience at work that matches their expectations for their career and their social lives gives them powerful motivation to stick with your organization.

    For more insights on how workplaces and management styles are changing, download BambooHR’s study Then and Now: How a Decade Changed the Workplace.

    BambooHR is the #1 HR software for small and medium-sized businesses. We set you free from spreadsheets so you can do great work.

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