Verizon Women in Business: Camaraderie in the Workplace
COVID-19 has turned the world upside-down — and it's made the need for engagement and support greater than ever. How can women support each other in this environment, and throughout their careers going forward?
René Johnston offers a helpful perspective in her Women Championing Women seminar on camaraderie in our careers. Johnston is the owner and founder of Employee Engagement Solutions, an organization focused on improving workplace culture by building more engaged teams. She also writes and lectures on workplace engagement. She joined Circle X to share valuable information and encouragement, and to take questions from working women on strengthening the connections that help us succeed.
According to Christine Riordan, as published in the Harvard Business Journal, “Camaraderie is more than just having fun. … It is also about creating a common sense of purpose and the mentality that we are all in it together. Studies have shown that soldiers form strong bonds during missions in part because they believe in the purpose of the mission, rely on each other, and share the good and the bad as a team. In short, camaraderie promotes a group loyalty that results in a shared commitment to and discipline toward the work.”
The isolation and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic have made camaraderie more important than ever. The positivity of strong workplace relationships can help us weather the uncertainty and difficulty of these times.
Johnston says that she was fortunate to have a first workplace experience with a team of strong, supportive women. Her accomplishments were celebrated and she always had someone to turn to for advice and feedback. In fact, she didn't realize until later in her career how exceptional that workplace was.
Jen Holley of Inland Cellular shares her own experience with a support group of three who are always ready to “pick up when the other needs to let go for a minute, when a break is needed.” This kind of mutual support helps the entire team succeed and thrive. Her team is very conscious of showcasing their strengths as women — joy, nurturing, and sisterhood.
Camaraderie can do more than just support us in the workplace, it can also be a catalyst for change and improvement.
Camaraderie can do more than just support us in the workplace, it can also be a catalyst for change and improvement. Attorney Julie Watts says that she designed the culture of her law office specifically with working mothers in mind. She built her practice to be flexible and responsive to her colleagues' needs.
As individuals, we need to model the values we want to see in the workplace, and as leaders, we can encourage our teams to form bonds and relationships. This doesn't just support our own work lives but creates a vital environment for new employees as they enter the workforce.
Building camaraderie starts with making relationships a priority, and building time into the day to support them. It can be hard to take time away from immediate tasks, but in the long run, strong relationships make the work more productive and high-quality.
Of course, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the process. Working remotely has made building and maintaining a sense of camaraderie more difficult. However, Johnston urges, “Don't let that stop you. Get creative!” Look for ways to nurture relationships remotely. The return on the investment of time and concern will be more than worthwhile.
A safe environment to connect is a must. A level of trust, support, and respect can help us thrive. Johnston believes that it's everyone's responsibility to create that environment — reach out, model connection, and support colleagues.
How can we welcome a new team member into an already tight group? Johnston says that we can make a conscious effort to reach out and draw them in. If you're the new team member, be patient and friendly and look for openings.
How can we maintain boundaries as we develop work relationships? Remember that you are in control of your relationships and professional boundaries. Respect your own comfort level and that of your colleague. In the workplace, the important aspect of relationships is support, not necessarily having another person to go to happy hour with.
How do we manage negative talk or personality clashes? Not everyone is going to “click” in the workplace, Johnston recommends just “shutting it down”: disengage from negative talk, and disrupters will eventually get the message.
How can we maintain camaraderie when the team hits snags or one member's mistake impacts everyone? Johnston recommends grace, understanding that none of us is perfect and we've all had moments when we've let people down. A little understanding and a little forgiveness goes a long way.
How can a team improve a management culture that isn't supportive? Be the change you want to see. Work to build a positive culture among your peers, and hopefully upper management will see the value you've created and become more supportive.
Hopefully we've all been inspired to invest a little of our work time to reach out to each other to build a work life that is nurturing, inspiring, and satisfying. Given that we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, shouldn't that time be as rewarding and meaningful as possible?