How to Build Communities At Work
People like coworking not only because it offers state-of-the-art office space and enhanced productivity, but also because it gives them access to strong professional communities. The thing is, communities don’t just happen automatically.
Whether you’re a coworker, starting a new job, or just want to help develop real relationships within your organization, here are some helpful tips for community building in the workplace.
Introduce Yourself--and One Another
We know, easier said than done, especially when in a new environment. The first step in building relationships with people is learning who they are. Taking opportunities to introduce yourself early on to as many people as you can will help ease transitions and begin integrating you into a pre-existing work community.
Additionally, it can be intimidating to introduce yourself in new situations, so if you’re already integrated into your workplace, take the opportunity to not only meet newcomers but also introduce them to others. You know how it feels!
Questions are the cornerstone of conversation! Asking questions is the easiest way to show interest in your coworkers as people with lives outside of work. Asking thoughtful questions not strictly limited to work can create meaningful interactions that help people get to know one another.
Engage In Team Building
At some point in your career, you will probably encounter some pretty stereotypical icebreakers or team building activities. While they can feel like a forced cliché, participating with an open mind and intention to learn about those around you can introduce you to new people and perspectives. Don’t dismiss these activities - not only will you build a stronger community, but also might have some fun in the process!
Water cooler small talk can seem dull, boring, or just a mandatory item to check off. Actually, and actively, listening to what people say helps everyone learn more about one another, as well as for the speaker to feel heard, acknowledged, and valued. Using active listening techniques, such as full concentration, responding, nodding, and asking questions, in conversations with colleagues creates a culture in which conversations are meaningful tools for connection rather than expected or forced interactions.
Separate Personal Relationships From Professional Criticism
Negative professional feedback can put a damper on positive communities. Feedback is critically important to any work environment, and at some point, that feedback won’t be all good. Negative feedback can hurt even more when it comes from someone you had a positive relationship with. While negative feedback cannot be eliminated, delivering it in a way that targets work, projects, and deliverables rather than the person themselves helps keep feedback professional and from unnecessarily damaging relationships.
On the flip side, congratulating coworkers for finishing a project, achieving a goal, or just doing really quality work helps people feel valued. Even a passing “great presentation” in the break room can establish a culture of appreciation, which not only builds community but also motivates everyone to do better.
On a similar note, saying thank you deliberately and often contributes yet again to communities in which members feel appreciated. Particularly in collaborative work environments, the help we give one another can go either unnoticed or unacknowledged. Taking the time and energy to properly thank others for what they do for you inclines people to further help each other, building a stronger community.
Community building is hard, but simple tricks can create a culture of openness and appreciation which fosters positive relationships between workers.
Work your way.