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Create the Best Atmosphere at Work

Posted by Insightlink on 11/10/14

Should Work Feel Like Family?

At Insightlink we often see comments about what employees like about their companies in response to open-ended questions in surveys. Some examples about what people like most include “a close-knit family”, “that family-like atmosphere”, and “feels like a family”. From an employee’s perspective many say they enjoy companies that offer a family-like atmosphere but is that actually good or bad for the organization? 

Co-workers are, in a sense, like family because we don’t get to choose who we work with. We also spend more time with the people we work with than our own immediate families. How we interact with the people we work with and the quality of those interactions does have an impact on our work, which of course means these relationships affect the organizations we work for in good and bad ways, so it’s important for organizations to foster the kind of relationships that benefits them most.

In a recent post by Harvard Business Review, they claim that for most organizations it’s actually dangerous for employees to function as a family. When we develop close bonds with people, we are more willing to do whatever is needed to help but this can backfire if some employees take advantage of others and don’t pull their own weight…over time, it becomes an “inefficient and demoralizing way to work”.

So what works best? One strategy is to foster a ‘neighbor’ relationship instead of a family atmosphere. As neighbors we try to balance what we do for others and what we get from them over time. In a healthy workplace, neighbor-employees work hard, secure in the knowledge that the organization is looking out for them. The organization succeeds because its employees put in a reasonable amount of extra time and effort for each other.

The article suggests several ways to promote a neighborhood in the workplace:

Training: Extensive training provides opportunities to develop work-related and personal skills. This reinforces to employees that their organization is interested in them and is making a long-term investment in them and their well being.

Engage with Management: A neighborhood feeling can be achieved when employees engage directly with higher-ups. ‘Being a part of the neighborhood requires a feeling that the organization knows who you are and cares not just about people in general, about you in particular.’ In this way a business unit feels connected to the organization as well as its own team members.

Shared Purpose: Like neighbors who work together in their communities to achieve a shared purpose, employees also need a vision or shared purpose that gives meaning to their jobs. When people feel they are working together towards a common goal, a feeling of belonging is created that makes everyone feel they 

belong, like they are a central part of the neighborhood.

So while your employees may want a family atmosphere it might be better for everyone concerned to make it more like a neighborhood instead!

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