I spend roughly nine hours a day in front of my computer working — minus bathroom breaks, lunch, meetings and a little Internet surfing for “research purposes.”
Eighty percent of my duties involve direct interaction with a keyboard, my Outlook email account and a Word document of some sort. I’m a communicator by profession. My job is to inform, engage and connect members of my installation and the surrounding community.
However, a few years ago I began to wonder: just how connected I was to the people in my own office?
It was relatively easy to come in each day and smile, exchange the standard greeting and make just enough small talk to glide comfortably into my office or cubicle.
I was quick to retreat to the comforts of my own little personal cube land complete with pink headphones. That is, until I realized the importance of coming up for air and making an effort to connect to my co-workers.
No matter how busy we are, we have to make time to engage with those around us. Building relationships is vital no matter what sector of government you work in. We often take time to attend fancy networking events to mingle with new people — but when was the last time we networked within our own office (other than when we needed something)?
I found that a few small conscious changes in my behavior yielded positive results. I call it the “connect effect.”
One of the first things I did was ditch the email chain and walk to my co-worker’s desk whenever possible to exchange information. It was either that or yell across the top of my cubicle. I chose the classier option (i.e. walking over). This not only helped me to cut down on the number of emails I needed to read and respond to, but it also gave me small opportunities to engage.
I also took the time to actively listen to my co-workers whether it was a discussion on an upcoming project, or their child’s first dance recital over the weekend. It became important to me to really listen to what they were saying in order to understand them and what they valued, as opposed to just thinking about how to respond to them. However, there were a few times when I had to politely excuse myself to get back to work. We’re all human and sometimes we just need to be heard, but there must also be a balance (smile).
As I listened, I never underestimated the power of a sincere compliment or a thank you. Both are free and go a long way. If someone rocked a presentation or helped me knock out a deadline faster… I made it a point to let them know it. I’ve never met anyone who was allergic to encouragement or a kind word.
By no means, did I become BFFs with everyone who crossed my path, but through the connect effect I was able to communicate with them effectively, respectfully and honestly. I built both personal and professional relationships that I consider priceless while still accomplishing the mission. I encourage everyone to come up for air and find a way to connect.
Dijon N. Rolle is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.
Again, you nailed it. Connecting is important in all aspects of our lives. I particularly like the suggestion to look away from Outlook and connect physically.
You got that right! May never be BFF with co-workers, but it is important that we provide positive feedback when our coworkers shine.
I anticipate writing a blog about a star in my gov world. There are stars amongst us!
Thanks for checking out the blog. I totally agree, we have to have quality relationships outside of ourselves. We work and exist is such a diverse society (go gov!) and making connections definitely allows us to better lead and serve alongside others. Looking forward to reading your blog about your “star”. Firm believer in giving credit where credit is due. Have a wonderful week!
Great post, Dijon! It’s definitely easy to just stay in your own virtual world and completely forget about the actual people around you.
Matthew, thank you for reading. I think our tech culture plays a big part in that too. Our society has become a place where so many people are walking around glazing into their smart phone screens. I’ve been guilty too.
I also had to make it a point to also connect in my personal life as well. I try to limit my texts and emails with friends and family and instead call/visit them too as much as possible. Human connection is priceless.
I’ve been affiliated, as either student or faculty, with 12 different departments in my discipline, at different schools, over the course of my affiliation with academia. And the very best ones had a lounge. Not just a little galley kitchen with a sink, kettle, microwave, and fridge, but a place where people *gathered* and connected. They would eat meals together, and sit back in comfortable chairs to sip their coffee and talk. As mealtime around the table is to families, decent lounges are to organizations.
I totally agree. Most of the time the norm for many organizations is to eat lunch at your desk or run errands during lunch breaks.When I worked in Europe we definitely had one at work, many of my co-workers would also stop and gather to eat and talk. They made the time to do that.
Nice post. Any tips for employees working virtually that want to stay connected?
Thanks 🙂 How long have you been working virtually, I’m interested in possibly a day or two remotely myself. Never done it before. As far as tips … if possible I would recommend coming into the office once a week and having some face time with co-workers, supervisors etc., maybe even doing a lunch date here or there. You don’t have to stay all day. That would also help to break up your routine a bit. Perhaps there are some briefings, special presentations, trainings coming up that you can attend periodically? Stick your head in there (or see if you can call-in to listen) and provide some feedback or answer a question. Would also see if there are any scheduled organizational social gatherings coming up (softball team, happyhour, organizational days). Choose 1 or 2 to attend and start connecting.