Surviving & Thriving through the Pandemic as a Work Team: Relationship Management

With all that’s on our plates right now, why should we care about our relationships at work? After all, most of us are not even technically “at work” anymore, at least, not based on our old definition. In our last blog, we talked about cultivating social awareness by asking ourselves two big questions: “where are our teammates emotionally?” and “where do they want to be aspirationally?”. We discussed how we could use both empathy and resonance as two ways to really see each member of our team clearly. As a reminder, the goal here was to listen. Listen to what their needs are to feel safe, supported and growing. Today’s big question is, “what do they need from us?”. We will focus on leveraging our social awareness to identify what our teammates need from us in order to feel safe to share these very personal aspects of their lives, build new self-awareness and develop new self-care strategies. 

Why do relationships at work matter?

First and foremost, supporting our teammates during difficult times is just the right thing to do. Perhaps, there is no better use of time while “at work” than helping someone get through a challenge. Our work to help and support each other is essential. Cultivating a positive organizational culture at work is important to achieving the goals for the organization.  In addition to the organization and our teammates, establishing  strong relationships with members of our team is beneficial to us. A recent article published by Psychology Today makes the compelling case that practicing empathy at work promotes good health, lower stress, and prevents burn-out.

Strong relationships at work are important to building trust between employees. Trust helps members of the team feel psychologically safe. This safety leads to team members being more vulnerable. Trust is also a key ingredient for a high functioning team. A lack of trust and vulnerability, is usually a symptom of team dysfunction.  Patrick Lencioni has created a framework to help team’s explore trust and its impact on team performance. 

Seeing Others Clearly To Meet Their Needs, Not Ours

After you’ve had the first meeting, which we discuss in our last blog, the follow-up meeting is to check-in with each other to see how everyone is doing. Again, the goal is to listen. Listen for what others need from you. When we watch our favorite shows on t.v. or listen to our favorite podcast, it’s often described as “tuning” in. Similarly, when we self-manage in order to better understand others we are “tuning” into their needs. This is a form of attunement. Attunement is when two people are in-sync emotionally with each other. You’ll want to really tune-into what the other person is saying when they are speaking to figure out how you can best support them.

Our teammates usually need us to support them in one of the following ways:

  • Just Listening - Offering an ear and allowing someone to just “get it all out” can be a very healing and a powerful form of support.
  • Strategizing - There is a time and place to ask questions and help problem solve - it’s usually when the other person has said that this is what they need.
  • Sharing Ideas - It can be incredibly helpful to hear ideas and other perspectives from those who have overcome similar situations to ours.
  • An Accountability Partner - Sometimes we know what to do and say, and we just need someone to ensure that we do it and/or say it.

One of the goals of matching the right support to our teammates is to help them cultivate their own resilience to their challenges. Similar to the first meeting, after everyone has shared their updates and what they need from the team, close out with gratitude, takeaways and commitments. 

The importance of being a good team player and teammate

Would you rather build a team around the most intelligent people in a room or the people with the highest emotional intelligence? There is one final reason to care about relationships at work. Employees with high emotional intelligence are more likely to be better team players and teammates. A team full of team players may ultimately have the greatest and most sustainable impact on team performance, meeting team goals, and achieving results. A new study, conducted by researchers at Harvard University and released by The National Bureau of Economic Research, found that team players can increase effort amongst their teammates and the team as a whole.  By definition, team players are also better able to put the needs of the team and others first. Being a good team player that creates the conditions for their teammates to feel psychologically safe is the first step towards creating strong relationships with those on your team.

Once you’ve set-up this foundation to build trust, vulnerability, and attunement you’ll want to ensure that you keep this momentum going so that it becomes a part of your team’s culture. We’ll explore how you can do this in our next blog. 

Want to strengthen your emotional intelligence at work? Here’s a free online course  from the University of California Berkeley’s The Science of Happiness at Work Center.