Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about staff as family:
It seems my staff has finally hit the point of friendship/family level, and I say finally. That being said, how do we cross the bridge to professionalism because it works? Does the relationships built of friendship/family hurt the work environment because the lack thereof professionalism?
Signed, My Staff
Dear My Staff:
With “We Are Fam-i-ly!” as their anthem, the ’79 Pittsburgh Pirates battled through a tough World Series to become World Champions. Family need not substitute for commitment and competence.
Is there a downside to work group family feelings? Sometimes cohesiveness can over-ride all else–covering for those who goof off and group-thinking we are so ok that we make costly mistakes. Is there a way to marry family-feelings and quality-minded professionalism? I think so. It doesn’t just happen. Romantic and mindless engagements too easily result in marriages that end in divorce and child support battles. Those in wise engagements take the time to clarify and merge values. They to do the hard work of becoming financially stable and working out prenuptial agreements before jumping into bed and marriage. Good marriages entail goal setting, careful family planning, and explicit accounting.
How might your staff apply the lessons of family to a successful working relationship? I’m sure you can come up more than a few approaches to make that happen.
1. Engaging in planning. This entails spelling out how your staff’s work contributes to the big picture; how it fits, who are its internal and external customers, what are its costs and profits. What must it do so that your workplace can compete and not risk being shut down? In short, what must it do to be accountable? Today’s forward thinking workplaces, at every level, confer about lean management; cutting wasted supplies, wasted energy, wasted time, and wasted money. They strive to innovate and problem-solve. Ideally, employees are financially savvy about their workplace and they ever-aware that their work pays off in profits and in stock-ownership.
2. Making skull sessions an expected habit. This entails collaborative discussion of what went well and what needs correcting as it does in sports pre- and post-game skull sessions.
3. Elevating civility and constructive communication. Work groups, no matter how friendly they come to be, need to talk about talk. Why? Because unless they develop the rules about how they talk to and do not talk about one another, conflict is not far away. We see each others mistakes and fail to confront them (because we don’t want to hurt feelings) unless we make it OK to do so. Teams benefit from making do and don’t communication rules–Who does what, how instructions and assignments are best understood and spelled out, how criticism is to be voiced, what decisions are team-made, what are leader given, etc.
4. Fun and celebration are not enemies of professionalism. A staff engaged in making its work area attractive is a tangible way to enhance its professional commitment. Just as most professional golf tournaments contribute to charities, work groups are excited when they are making their communities better in any number of good neighbor ways.
Might some of these approaches wed family/friendliness to professionalism? That is the not so hidden meaning in my signature: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. I predict that your question signals you see the way to big WEGOS and you are willing to do what it takes to join with others in your staff to achieve that. I will be interested in what you elect to do and how it works out.