Camaraderie: “People Chemistry” At Work

Everybody needs friends. One of the most famous questions of the 12 posed by the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey is “I have a best friend at work.” Many challenged the question as irrelevant. Then, decades worth of research shows that employees with healthy social connections at work along with teams that possess a deep sense of affiliation:

  • Get more work done
  • See contagious camaraderie
  • Look out for each other
  • Make less mistakes

Wouldn’t you like to see those results on your team? I would suggest they are critical in crisis >> when we must navigate uncharted waters and make quick shifts in the way things are done. Certainly, confidence is a key ingredient to leading through crises. And your people need to know their role and find a path to clarity

But teams need more than confidence and clarity in times of uncertainty. They also need contagious camaraderie — the kind of chemistry that inspires more work, more effort, more progress. 

Contagious Camaraderie: The “people chemistry” among a group that catalyzes innovation, momentum, and collaboration.

~Annie Perdue-Olson

As leaders we tend to focus on skills, strategies, goals, expectations or even mission because they are tangible and can easily go on a meeting agenda or a to-do list. The intangible chemistry of relationships is harder to quantify and even harder to contain in a list of “to-dos”. It’s in the little things >> random conversations, unexpected questions, surprise gifts, spontaneous words, laughter, or shared experiences. The many things that can’t really be put on an agenda are what create contagious camaraderie. 

Orchestrated small talk doesn’t automatically lead to camaraderie. 

You have probably experienced groups that over-focus on building relationships >> making meetings too long, delaying projects, or resulting in conversations that turn into distractions at work. Camaraderie is not the same as friendship. It’s friendship with a purpose. It’s the “people chemistry” that catalyzes “more” within a group. At work that “more” is mission, productivity, goals, and progress.

Think of camaraderie at work as “relationships with a positive purpose”. And, it’s not just leaders who make the investment, but everybody has a part to play. We can’t orchestrate this as leaders, but we can create the atmosphere that fosters camaraderie.

A Few Ideas to Get You Started:

  • Create opportunities for people to build friendships while they work instead of simply focusing on relationship building (parties, social, team building) as separate from task accomplishment (projects, goals, planning, skills development).
  • Highlight those moments when people working together accomplished more and acknowledge each individual’s contributions.
  • Invite different opinions and take the time to demonstrate and create space for respectful listening.
  • Ask about someone’s day, and wait for the answer. Offer brainstorming, active listening or helpful questions about where they might be stuck or overwhelmed by a project or a task.
  • Celebrate strengths and weaknesses >> which might mean shifting tasks or helping someone partner up with a teammate to address gaps and let strengths shine.

Get the team involved in generating ideas on how to build relationships that catalyze forward momentum at work!

Inquiring minds want to know:

Help me out with a quick poll: On a scale of 1-5 how important is meaningful and purposeful friendships at work for you? (1=not important, 5=extremely important)

Share your number and comment below!


Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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