There are few things more frustrating for employees than being in a workplace devoid of collaboration and connection.
This past year, Financial Times reporter Emma Jacobs noted the importance of identifying loneliness in the workplace.
Her article referenced a joint study by California State University and the Wharton School of Business that noted, “management should not treat loneliness as a private problem but rather one that affects the business.”
With that in mind, we reached out to various experts to get their advice on how individuals and management teams can foster an environment of teamwork.
Be Intentional About Building Friends
Many of us have become accustomed to keeping our work life separate from our private lives. But, according to Shawn D. Madden, CEO of corporate events company FunCorp, building those connections improves your frame of mind and strengthens the workplace.
“Friends will do more for another friend in a week than they will do for a co-worker in a month, so your teamwork and productivity will improve as you build social connections,” Madden said.
See Yourself as Bigger Than Your Job Description
Harvey Deutschendorf, an emotional intelligence expert and a regular contributor to Fast Company, said part of building a team is having employees who look beyond themselves when they walk into the office every day.
“They see their role as helping in any manner they are able to and are always willing to give of their time and knowledge. They view their role as larger than their job description and look for ways they can contribute to the organization,” Deutschendorf told us. “When they see something that needs to be done, they step up and help out.”
An employee who sees themselves as larger than their role should be handled with a genuine, positive spirit, though. Someone who becomes obsessed with overachieving for overachieving’s sake will most likely alienate their team instead of bringing them together.
Do Whatever It Takes to Arrive with a Positive Attitude
As we mentioned in the previous section, overachievers who push themselves for the wrong reasons will be a detriment to their team, not a benefit.
One of the best ways to avoid that is to come into work with a genuinely positive attitude; not a façade, but a genuine spirit of optimism, says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com.
“Do whatever you need to before arriving — whether it’s exercise, grabbing a coffee, or meditating — so that when you arrive you’re in good spirits and ready to work with your team,” Sweeney said.
See Your Coworkers as Individuals, Not Roles
One of the quickest ways to turn your workplace into a purposeless void is to treat coworkers as roles and not as real people, workplace engagement strategist and coach Lisa Barrington told us.
“Employees should work to see their colleagues as individuals, with unique needs, not just as the person who does ‘xyz’ task,” Barrington said. “By humanizing their colleagues, they will be inclined to step up to help them, support them, find ways to enhance the team’s success over their own, individual needs/goals”
Know When You Need Help … and Ask for It
We often view success as something that happens when you accomplish your goals on your own. Asking for help is seen as a weakness.
However, says Dan Stones, a team dynamics and workplace culture specialist, asking for help is a crucial element to building a strong sense of teamwork among employees. Exactly why is asking for help so powerful?
Stones said it’s a matter of trust.
“The largest benefit that asking for help brings is actually tied to trust. As soon as the employee asks for help, they immediately put themselves in a position of vulnerability,” he said. “This sort of openness is what’s required for a higher level of trust to develop among team members.”
A Reminder What Can Happen When Teamwork is Devalued
There’s a lot of good sense in what the experts told us about teamwork. Some of it may seem idealistic and nearly impossible considering the environment in your workplace.
But, as Tephra Miriam, a communications expert and author, reminded us, the price of a fragmented workplace is dangerously high.
“Without true cohesion and unity, the system falls apart,” Miriam said. “This can literally kill an organization.”