For the past several years, I worked with (and eventually led) an ever-changing team of individuals. Long ago, before I was part of the team, the people who made up that team at the time decided to call ourselves a family. Here at LEAD, we prioritize our nuclear families and want our work to complement, not compete with, our family relationships, but I think that workgroups can learn a lesson or two from families.
You might think your workgroup is far from a family. But, consider these similarities:
Families, like workgroups didn’t necessarily choose one another. Some family relationships are by choice – spouses would be an obvious example. On the flip side, parents and siblings are luck of the draw.
Regardless of how we become family, or coworkers, we are stuck with one another for the time being, and it’s in our best interest to figure out how to function as a unit! Working together, just like living together, means we get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly of one another. Our choice is to “love ‘em or leave ‘em,” and our teams will benefit if we love each other and stick together in spite of our shortcomings (unless all parties would be better served by severing ties).
Your workgroup isn’t necessarily your friend group. As the adage says, “friends are the family we choose,” and we already talked about how we don’t choose our coworkers. There might be other people in your workplace who you connect with more naturally or share more common interests with, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t grab lunch as a team each month or find another way to spend intentional time together.
You might be part of several different workgroups, just as we each are part of many families. We have birth families, families formed by marriage, extended families, etc. Some workgroups might be more like the family you see every few years at a family reunion, while you share a bathroom with others!
Families have values which dictate expected family behavior. Organizations, especially small to mid-sized ones like LEAD and many of our clients, have value systems woven throughout the organization’s DNA, whether or not those values have been communicated to the organization.
I could go on and on, but in short, there’s something to be said for looking at your workgroup and your organization like a family. Is this hard (or even comical) for you to imagine? If so, your workgroup likely doesn’t reflect basic values of trust, respect, and a shared vision. We have everything to gain when we learn to coexist, cooperate with, and maybe even love the people with whom we work. Family life and work life are best when we invest time in one another as people, rather than just focusing on the tasks we need to accomplish. The reward for families is a healthier, happier home; for workgroups, it is a higher-functioning, productive, and profitable team, and a more pleasant workplace.
Top 5 ways to create healthier workgroups by applying a family framework:
Invest in your relationships with one another. Be intentional each day to greet one another. Ask a genuine question about life outside of the office.
Eat together! Make it a priority to share a meal as a team at least once a month.
Gather to celebrate birthdays, holidays, your organization’s anniversary, new hires or retirements, even if for only a few moments during the day.
Go on trips together. Stepping away from the office as a workgroup for a retreat, even for as little as half a day, can be a real catalyst for building trust and unity.
Get to know each other’s families. A department picnic or outing where families are invited can help build healthy bridges between work and home life.