The State of Connection in Today's Workplaces

Have you ever stepped back and taken a good long look at how we connect in the workplace?

Let Me Count the Ways

After reading the TED blog, Career advice for millennials (and really anyone) from Margaret Heffernan, it got me thinking.  When I need to communicate with someone in the office, I try to go and visit with that person.  This gets me up and away from my desk, puts me on the other person's turf, and it's usually the most satisfying way to communicate.  You can see each other's body language, and you can 'squeeze in' one or two additional topics.  And you've either made or strengthened a connection.

If physically visiting with someone is not feasible, the next best means of communicating is by phone.  Have you ever noticed how we utilize our phones less than we have in the past?  By phone, you can hear the other person's voice and their tone/demeanor.

Next, there's e-mail.  In today's world, it's easy for people to use and over-use e-mail rather than visit with you in person or call you on the telephone.  

The use of texting and sending instant messages, though quick and more likely to get our attention, are really no substitute for an in-person meeting.

Seek to Connect

Heffernan suggests, "Companies grow best, when workers are connected by social bonds."  She recommends looking for opportunities to get to know your co-workers.  Go to lunch, offer to work on projects with others, volunteer with your co-workers, take advantage of doing things socially both in and outside of work. 

Heffernan’s TED Book, Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes, rounds up the academic research that backs up her workplace-tested insights. She’s calling for managers to feed workers’ hunger for connection — and for workers to recognize that coffee breaks and hallway chats can actually make them more valuable, and valued, employees. 

Build Your Social Capital

The premise behind this good advice for all of us is that none of us can know everything.  It's important to build a network of folks who know a lot about different things.  Properly networking, i.e., giving information to others, as well as asking for information for yourself, enables you to be smarter.

And how does one build his/her social capital?  By spending time together: more visiting and chatting with others, less hiding behind e-mails.

So, when you find yourself sitting with others over coffee or lunch, and everyone has their phones out texting someone, seek to connect.  Ask questions and learn something about others.  Build your social capital and strengthen your connections.

End Notes

TED blog, Career advice for millennials (and really anyone) from Margaret Heffernan, 2015

TED Book, Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes by Margaret Hefferenan