We had our office holiday party last night. Almost everyone came and brought their special someone. We all had a terrific time.
I know it sounds like a vacation postcard, but as I stood in the food line waiting my turn for some outstanding hors d’oeuvres, I noticed how much fun everyone was having. What struck me was how terrific these people are — the same ones I sometimes struggle with in the workplace.
So, what was so different about this event? What was activating this side of my coworkers? And was there something transferable from this event to take to the daily workplace?
Hmmm . . . maybe it was the booze. Actually, everyone was really controlled, so I’ll rule that out.
Instead, I think three things happened at the party that can be transferred to the workplace to improve performance, connection, and our sense of team.
- When we shared our stories, experiences, and perspectives we all became equals. Sometimes our manager/non-manager roles encourage us to think some of our stories (aka experiences) are more meaningful, more valid, or more important than others. In an age when we are connected to personal networks, no one role has a monopoly on meaningful ideas, information, or perspectives. We are all equals in gathering and sharing information. The workplace must encourage employees to constantly share what they see, feel, think, and consider — and that it matters.
- When we were relaxed, we communicated more clearly and more honestly. Most workplaces aren’t relaxed — particularly in our competitive and recessionary economy, with its constant pressure for greater results, greater innovation, greater this and greater that. By defining (reasonable) expectations, we are able to create a more sane, sound, and significant approach to the workday. The result is that employees have time to think, communicate, and perform. Sometimes we actually have to slow things down to increase performance and results.
- When we saw each other as people — not roles — we connected more personally and more emotionally. We have workplace personas — created by our roles. These roles affect how we interact: who can talk to whom, what procedures have to be followed, blah, blah, blah . . . What we forget is that behind the roles are real thinking, feeling, dreaming, and contributing people. In today’s intellectual economy, the more we know and value our people (as people), the better we can connect, coach, and inspire them. We have to know them — to value them — to connect with them (to activate their loyalty and performance).
We all had a great time at our holiday party and vowed that evening to build more company events — to get out from behind our desks and into shared space — to relate to each other more, appreciate each other more, and remember that at the heart of the company are talented, passionate, and human employees. True, the holiday party was a celebration for them. But actually, it was a celebration of them. That sense of celebration needs to be a regular part of the workplace.
Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user Al404.