Making connections at work more important than ever

Jennifer Schroeder

One of my guilty pleasures is getting up at 7 to watch “Sunday Morning” on television. My kids call it an “old person show.” I don’t consider myself old, but I love that show.

A recent episode included a segment on suicide. The gist was that if just one person reaches out to someone contemplating suicide and expresses concern, a suicide could be prevented. That’s powerful. And it got me thinking. Are we losing the ability to form personal bonds because of technology?

I recently started a new job. Since the client I’m working with is located out of town, I communicate through video conferencing. The technology is amazing, but I worry we miss something not meeting face to face. There are nuances of communication that don’t come across well unless we’re in the same room and paying attention to what’s not said. 

Don’t get me started on texting. I have a teenage daughter, and an innocent “What time will you be home?” is often misconstrued as me being the curfew police. Heaven forbid a concerned mother should worry about her daughter driving after dark. And what’s up with the eye roll emoji? I get that one a lot.

Did you know the current generation of young professionals don’t like to use email? It’s too slow. They prefer texting or instant messaging because it’s quicker and they can get a faster response. There’s a generational technology issue here affecting the work environment.

What I am getting at here raises questions. How many conversations are misconstrued because of technology? Are our relationships becoming more superficial as we use technology to communicate rather than sitting down face to face? I think there’s a lot to be said for getting to know people on a more personal level, something that must occur in person. 

Humans are social creatures. We form bonds and communities to work together to achieve common goals.  The same is true in the workplace. Some of my coworkers are life-long friends because of the obstacles at work we overcame together. We had some arguments, but that’s OK. When people feel passionate about things, discussions get heated. What made it work for us is we knew each other on a deeper level because we had made connections on a more personal level. These were connections we made as parents, volunteers, sports fans and a myriad of other things we associated with and talked about to find common ground. These people are members of my tribe because we bonded over shared interests, accepted values and common goals.

Who’s in your tribe? I’m not just talking about who you call when you have a flat tire or need someone to bring you homemade soup when you’re sick. Who do you call when you have a moral dilemma at work? Who do you ask for career advice? Who do you bounce off ideas? If you can’t think of anyone, you might need to make some deeper personal connections.

We all live busy lives that pull us in many directions. Finding time to fit one more thing into our overscheduled days seems impossible. We’re tired. We’re burned out.  We’re drained and need filled up.

But that’s exactly why you need your tribe. Members of your tribe know your struggles and want you to succeed.  They build you up and have your back. Some might even help you dispose of a body — or at least talk you off the ledge when you think you might need their help to dispose of a body. They get you on a deeper level.

Members of your tribe are in your corner when you apply for a new job. They go to bat for you when you’re up for a promotion. They tell you when your idea is great, but also tell you when your idea is crap and then explain why.

Even if you think you don’t have any time left in your day, you still need to carve out time for relationships with your tribe. Visit with a coworker over coffee. Go out to happy hour with your work friends. Take a former boss out to lunch. Join a professional organization.

Ditch your excuses and get outside your comfort zone.  I promise, the rewards are much greater than your excuses.