Last week, Regina explored the idea that community is the source of productivity.
Let’s explore further why this relationship between community and productivity matters. Your sense of community arises from your experience that you are in relationship with others, your belief that you share values and a sense of purpose, and your trust that you are accepted for who you are.
In this understanding of community, being able to show up as you are, to make mistakes, to be valued for your contribution, and to be able to challenge the status quo, means that you get to belong on your own terms, not someone else’s. All these elements are essential to the feeling that you are part of a community.
Another essential aspect of being part of a community is experiencing a meaningful sense of relationship with others. What people need in order to feel that sense of relationships with others varies widely. This is part of what makes the current conversation around the look and feel of “hybrid work” such an interesting one. And it is not as simple as saying that extraverts want a return to face to face working and introverts want to stay at home.
What people are craving is a real sense of connection to others, and and real connection is not predicated on in person or virtual working.
The “12 Questions” are part of a study by the Gallup organization which set out to discover what employees need from their workplaces. 25 years of research revealed a pattern: Strongly agreed responses to the following 12 questions were highly correlated with business units which enjoyed higher productivity, higher profitability, lower turnover and higher customer satisfaction than business units which had lower responses to the questions. (See First Break all the Rules: What the World’s Great Managers Do Differently or 12: The Elements of Great Managing)
- Do I know what is expected of me at work?
- Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
- At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
- In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
- Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
- Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
- At work, do my opinions seem to count?
- Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?
- Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
- Do I have a best friend at work?
- In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?
- This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?
Notice that Question 10 asks if you have a best friend at work. This question matters. People in our workshops ‘get’ the questions about the need for clarity, feedback, alignment and development, but a workplace BFF? Please!
How does that question make you feel? Perhaps you notice your emotional reaction to the question even as you are thinking to yourself “Emotions have no place at work!”
The authors of the 12 Elements note that the many people who find that question so provocative illustrate the extent to which “a ‘Theory X’ leave-your-personal-life-at-the-door philosophy still pervades the business world.” And at the very least it uncovers a widely held, often considered common sense, belief that that emotions are not welcome at work.
Gallup dug a little deeper and added qualitative research to get underneath participant responses to the question about friendship at work. And their answers include: “I feel no connection here. I have no one to confide in. I’m working on getting a job somewhere else.” This demonstrates that this question evokes answers about affiliation and inclusion.
And it predicts performance!
If you are amongst those who fear that workplace friendship is negative, know that the greater the percentage of respondents who indicate that they have a best friend at work, the higher the performance of their business unit.
Further to that, if you find you are worried about workplace friendships, you are tilting at windmills. People make friends anyway, irrespective of whether or not the HR (or legal) department permit or encourage them.
Your challenge as a leader is to create a culture and a climate which encourages positive, healthy, supportive relationships in the workplace. And then to harness and reap the reward of increased levels of camaraderie, employee engagement and job satisfaction. And, oh yeah, happier customers.
At the end of the day, we are social creatures. We are built to be in relationship with others.
If you want something to really concern yourself with, worry about the sections or departments or divisions of your organization where people don’t form strong bonds and relationships with each other. That is your real concern.