Building Work Relationships by Marguerite Ham

Work Relationships are vitally important!  It’s not just about getting along.  As human beings, we crave connection with others.  We have survived for thousands of years by living as a tribe. “Tribes live in groups and are organically connected and defined by traditions of common descent, language, culture, and ideology.” (Wikipedia) 

So, what can we learn from tribal living and building work relationships?  Full-time employees spend most of their time at the office. Work relationships are essential to employee well-being. These relationships at work can either positively or negatively affect an employee’s stress levels, productivity, and a general sense of happiness. These factors not only affect an employee’s work performance but affect employee health too.

Funeral service is known for attracting professionals who are there because of a deep sense of calling.  This can become a double edge sword. Way too often, I hear things like, “I don’t have time to make friends at work.” “I can’t take a lunch break.” “I don’t sleep well.” “I lost a family member and was asked to be the funeral director for the service.”  As leaders in funeral service, it is our duty to ensure staff members are maintaining balance at work and staying healthy mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually!

It has been found in many scientific and psychological studies that a sense of belonging is an important intrinsic motivator. Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within because it is naturally satisfying and fulfilling to you. Extrinsic motivators involve engaging in behaviors with the goal to earn or gain external rewards or avoid punishment.  It has been found that Intrinsic Motivators are longer lasting, and Extrinsic Motivators tend to be temporary.  A combination of both (80% intrinsic, 20% extrinsic) tends to be a healthy blend. 

It is key for managers, supervisors, and leaders of organizations to support social connections in the workplace in order to create a successful and healthy workforce. Intentionally supporting and creating work relationships has many proven benefits:

  • Less Stress
  • Increased engagement
  • Loyalty
  • Connection between departments
  • Happier at work
  • Healthier life and sense of well-being
  • Accountability

Let’s look at some ways to create a culture of healthy work relationships in your workplace! 

  • Connect departments:  find ways for staff who don’t typically spend time with each other to connect on or off-site.  Be intentional.
  • Share a meal:  it’s easy for people to bond and connect over a shared meal!  Perhaps a weekly team breakfast or lunch does not have to be fancy (fruit, bagels for breakfast, pizza, or subs for lunch) There are too many of us who skip meals to keep on working.  This is not healthy!
  • Inspire Positivity:  A positive work environment will also help encourage social interaction and positive communication among colleagues. Employers can help inspire positivity by practicing gratitude, promoting laughter, and using positive messaging. 
  • Team Activity:  these activities can help staff members relax, unwind, and have fun together.
  • Celebrate:  acknowledge hard work, completed projects, birthdays, Employee Appreciation Day, etc.
  • Quiet Room:  in these times of so much noise, creating a quiet space for staff to go to and disconnect for a few minutes is extremely helpful for a sense of well-being.  Short moments of disconnection and quiet can create proactive decision-making and improved ability to handle stress.
  • Training: bring staff together for professional development training that is informative, relative to their performance or well-being, and fun!
  • Volunteer Together: Bring your team together to volunteer on a project that is helpful to others or positively impacts your community.   
  • Schedule time with your staff:  meet with your staff members and have meaningful conversations with your staff.  Listen to them!  Most of us simply want to be seen and heard. 

In closing, it is crucial to retain and maintain a healthy culture with healthy staff members to intentionally and consistently build work relationships where staff truly like and enjoy spending time with each other.  Support each other during stressful times and acknowledge each other’s gifts.  Leaders must be deliberate with their plan in creating healthy, connected, caring work relationships.