We’ve all seen the images of entire families on their phone at the dinner table, or meetings where everyone is looking at their computer, and not looking at their boss. While technology can certainly distract us, it’s also a powerful tool for feeling more connected among families, friends, and colleagues at work.
Two experts suggest that small, habitual digital moments can offer us ways to forge and maintain close connections with coworkers and team members.
Dr. Jane Dutton is an expert in business and psychology, and advocates for, what she calls, High-Quality Connections (HQC) in the workplace. HQCs are ones where people do more than merely communicate and interact with each other, but also create “flexible, strong and resilient” connections.
Developing high-quality connections requires “being present with people.” This can take the form of turning off your phone, or stepping away from your computer to talk with colleagues, but it can also be harnessed virtually.
Being ‘present’ virtually may sound like an oxymoron, but can be actualized in a number of small ways. The key is being respectful of people’s time, especially their time online. For example, if someone has done something particularly helpful or smart, acknowledge them with a quick email. Even just responding to emails quickly can make you ‘present’ before others.
Dr. Dutton argues that HQCs are made in moments, and don’t necessarily require full-blown campaigns focused on connections. Including one act every day, for instance, can begin to form these HQCs.
|Put It In Action: At the end of each day, take 5 minutes to assess the connections you made that day and send a short, encouraging note. Perhaps it’s to someone on your team who just knocked a project out of the park, or a partner you met with that day who you’re hoping to build a better relationship with. Even better, take action in the moment — just after the meeting ends or just after that all-star on the team delivers.|
Patrick Ewers, current Principal at Mindmaven and former Director at LinkedIn, argues that when it comes to connectivity, we need to focus on making interactions frictionless. This means forging interactions where you’re focused on growing or helping the other person, rather than creating tension or friction.
Forging frictionless connections requires coworkers to think about their interactions in terms of “value payloads,” which as anything you provide to people that could help them:
“The easiest value payload—it literally costs you nothing—is the emotion-based value payload. All it requires is giving people positive feedback in the moment. Many people have this odd tendency to be overly careful when giving out compliments or positive feedback. How often is someone talking in a meeting and you think, wow that was really smart, but you never say it out loud? Or even to them after the meeting?
“If you really believe something positive about someone else, you have nothing to lose. You can stand by it, and it will make them feel good, especially if it’s expressed in front of their peers. Just like dashing off an email to someone, this is easy enough to make habitual if you try.”
|Put It In Action:The next time you’re in a meeting, take a moment to read the room. Is there an air of friction? How can you defuse it? Play a lead role to build up someone else, and see what positive output you get in return.|
At Zenefits, we understand the importance of connectivity, and take great joy in hearing how our customers are using our technology to drive better engagement with employees and the world they work in.
How are you driving better connections in the workplace? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.