Of all the places labeled a "home away from home," the workplace usually tops the list. The office or job site is where most people in industrialized nations spend a considerable portion of time. Is it any wonder people seeking career advice are so often told to find something they enjoy doing?
Given that the workplace is a home away from home, it follows that colleagues at work are a family of sorts away from family. Co-workers develop acquaintances, friendships, even love interests. Therefore, workers' feelings about their co-workers influence their feelings about work in general.
Do you look forward to seeing your colleagues every day? Do you feel comfortable around them? Are they interesting? Do they make you laugh? Do they make you think? Are they trustworthy? Is their presence conducive to productivity? Or is it a distraction?
In a good work family, the workforce is greater than the sum of its parts. Colleagues depend on one another for support and companionship; help one another with tasks and problems; and make coming to work a more pleasant experience by bringing humor, cordiality and compassion to the job site, in addition to their professional assets.
This engenders high morale, which in turn contributes to workplace productivity. People who are content tend to think more clearly and produce better work. Not to mention, a strong work family whose members employ teamwork will operate much more effectively than a dysfunctional lot of ragtag hirelings.
Among merchant level salespeople, that might involve sharing sales techniques or keeping colleagues apprised of the latest and greatest in technologies and services in our industry. Perhaps a colleague has recently returned from a regional acquirers association's annual conference with a bevy of new information and insights to share. Consider this hypothetical anecdote:
To be sure, there are important differences in the way we should behave toward our work and domestic families. Co-workers are not (usually) our children or our spouses, and we should act accordingly. Being cordial is important, but a big part of respecting others in the office is being mindful of boundaries - and knowing what constitutes an invasion of someone's personal space, be it literal or figurative.
Generally speaking, such boundaries entail things like being friendly but not romantic, enjoying moments of levity but not messing around so much that your antics become a distraction, and offering constructive criticism to others where it is warranted but refraining from hurtful comments or excessive negativity.
Regarding those who have blurred the boundary between co-worker and romantic partner, it remains highly important to clearly distinguish between conduct in and outside the workplace. Your co-worker may be more than just a co-worker, but that extra dimension shouldn't manifest itself prominently while you're at the office.
Everyone likes having a nice, comfortable home to retreat to at the end of each day - yet, why wait until after a work day to live happily? You spend enough time at work to make it feel like your second home. Why not create an environment similar (in some respects) to the one that makes your domicile a desirable place to go?
Above all else, do your part to establish and maintain a contented workplace family by striving to make meaningful and lasting connections with your colleagues. Take a newcomer under your wing, as you would a child; appeal to a trusted company veteran for advice when a problem has you stumped, as you would a father or mother figure; and, of course, be kind to your brothers and sisters.
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