I recently had a conversation with a manager where the question was asked, “In the absence of shared work, how do we create a shared culture?” This manager had created a team meeting specifically to share announcements and make connections. It starts with updates and things the team needs to know and then is opened to whatever the team wants to talk about. Sometimes they talked about recipes and food, sometimes about kids and pets or hobbies and vacations. The most important thing is that the team gets a chance to connect with each other and just talk. As the manager of a few extroverts and many introverts, they must make sure there is equal contribution from individuals and that one person doesn’t dominate the conversation or that the same people talk the whole time.
We need friends now more than ever. And just as much as I advocate for having a best friend at work, it’s my responsibility to open myself up to possible connections, not my managers. We might get lucky and have friends at work, but we can’t count on it. Part of the work of the positivity project is to encourage leadership to model and practice kindness and gratitude and savor the joys around us. But if we find ourselves not getting that from our manager, we can’t just sit and blame the manager. We have to take responsibility for our own experience. Sometimes employees might complain that a manager is distant, that the employee does not feel valued or seen. An employee might want a more substantive relationship with their manager. But that may not happen. We cannot make people something that they aren’t. We all have different talents and strengths. If we’re looking to our work relationships to meet our social needs, we might find work friends or besties, but we also might not. We can’t expect work to give us everything we need.
A social problem isn’t something that someone else can fix for you. You have to make an effort and take responsibility for your happiness. How do we make new friends? Where do we find friends? I’m not here to provide answers for you, but if you sense your employees (and maybe even yourself) needing friends now more than ever, it’s worth considering and maybe even opening a conversation about. Many people find new friends from similar interest groups (e.g., book clubs, volunteer organizations, church groups, community involvement). My daughter recently joined gymnastics. The parents are all sitting on bleachers watching their kids. I looked around and was a little saddened to see most parents had their heads down looking at their phones. I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me by asking what group her child was in and how long she’d been coming to gymnastics. We had a nice conversation. If I see her again next week, we might sit next to each other and continue the conversation. I think it’s a great time to encourage social/connection time in meetings. I’m happy to be a resource to help get the conversation going.
Here’s to making new friends,