As I’m currently transitioning to new clients in my career, I’ve been thinking about what makes a healthy workplace and my past experiences with companies and teams. Coincidentally, I was watching an episode of The Office and the executive manager decided to resolve a power struggle between two employees who wanted to be manager by saying, “I’m sure you two can sort this out among yourselves.” and left them to resolve the issue. It reminded me of how the department I worked at previously was being run and how we need a social structure to excel.
Where I worked, every so often, the manager would get a visit from one of the team members, complaining to her about what another team member was doing. She would listen, and then do nothing. There was no discussion. As a consequence, there was little talking on the team, socially, or in terms of hashing out problems. People felt the need to go to her and didn’t feel comfortable enough with their team mates to express themselves.
A vacuum of leadership
I remember when I started there, I was not welcomed by the manager. I did my consulting projects with minimal training on their work process. There were no team building exercises or outings. There was no feeling of community.
The team completed their work, but is that enough?
Stuff got done, but with the minimum of service and occasional added cost to the company. And it was done in a sterile space. It’s clear that this is because there was no communication. This hurts performance in terms of the company’s interests, but my point here is the impact on the people, which is the most important asset of the company anyway.
It’s sad when we spend most of our lives at work, more than 8 hours a day, day after day, and we often don’t connect with our co-workers. Maybe because the workplace is too rigid, but it could be because there is no framework of managing the people.
We need a social structure with a leader
Alain de Botton has observed this as well. He tells us that the same guidance in religious communities is necessary in the secular population. People need a social structure with a leader, a place to connect and share. The congregation should extend beyond church walls to many places, most of which being the workplace.
So as I review my past and future work experience, I ask, if our workplace is not a congregation of friends who can synergize for the company and socialize for our own quality of life, then it might be time to reconsider where we want to spend the rest of our lives.