Going back to work after the Labor Day holiday brings up all kinds of feelings. It’s evocative of going back to school, after summer vacation. It’s the return to normal. Normal is not necessarily a good thing.
The workplace is a lot like high school. It’s fraught with angst about being in or out, being smart or not, and being liked or not liked.
According to new research, employees are not into liking each other. They are not making any effort to build relationships with each other.
They are there to do a job or at least put in the time, go home and maybe find something better while grazing on LinkedIn or dozens of other job sites.
It turns out the workplace has become “transactional” for almost all employees. There’s an expectation that it’s simply a matter of time before you leave voluntarily or are asked to leave. So there’s a disincentive to build real relationships with your co-workers, to dig in and really get to know one another.
Back in the day, there were bowling leagues, picnics, families becoming “family friends,” and a kind of comfort in seeing the same folks everyday. In essence, the workplace was a second home for many employees.
Now, the expectation is that you will be at that job for a limited time, until something better comes along. Or, it’s a matter of time before you are told your job is no longer part of the strategic vision. “You are out,” to quote Heidi Klum.
It’s hard to be a free agent, in essence signed to a day-to-day contract. It’s hard to bond, and become an enthusiastic team member. It’s even harder if you are working from home or a remote location.
BTW, it’s equally hard to lead under those circumstances, although I bet you find it hard to sympathize with your boss.
There’s something even more insidious about this new relationship to work – or more aptly: the lack of a secure relationship to work and co-workers.
Stress. Impermanence. Insecurity. Instability. Resentment. Anger.
The best way to assuage these very real feelings is to make the effort to bond to your co-workers. Say hi and really find out how they are doing. Ask what they did over the weekend. If they live in proximity to you, ask if they want to shoot pool, grab coffee or take a yoga class with you next weekend.
Build your network of people, and I don’t mean just on social media. Build relationships with people who work with you.
This will raise your emotional state, and create a personal sense of stability. Real relationships with co-workers make any kind of work more satisfying and stabilizing. Make and keep ties with those who come and then go. And those at all levels.
Almost every night that I work late enough to see our maintenance staff, I feel better. They are a father and son team. I always ask how they’re doing, we talk about stuff, and they always play with my monster-sized dogs (yes, my dogs come to work). The son always tells me to be safe on the road home when we pack out for the night.
Over the holiday weekend we ran into each other, as I was heading for the beach. I felt like I was seeing family. That sense of surprise, a happy jolt, a hug and on with the day, feeling tethered to such nice people.
Consider hugging a co-worker today. Just a side-hug: in an appropriate gender neutral way. Or, at least give a fist bump when you hear what they did when they weren’t laboring on Labor Day.