No matter what your job, a majority of your day-to-day work most likely includes working with people. I’m lucky to work in an office with a group of smart women with like minded interests. Because our work revolves around professional development, we have been intentional about how we work together and support one another. That being said, that doesn’t mean stress doesn’t get the best of us sometimes.
I had a reminder of this recently when a colleague and I were having trouble moving an idea forward during a brainstorming session. I noticed that she was especially worried about the project. I myself was feeling overwhelmed by my new role of working mom. As the meeting continued, I realized we were on different pages regarding the next steps. This was surprising as we usually were very in-sync.
The next day, we acknowledged that the meeting was difficult and talked about the challenges relating to the project itself – but we both knew something was off. A few days later, we had a one-on-one meeting scheduled. We had plenty of work items to discuss but rather than starting with work, we started with personal. We talked about our latest worries and challenges. We were vulnerable and open; we reflected on the stress we each had been feeling and how it may have affected our team. It only took a few minutes and we were able to re-connect immediately.
This was a big lesson. Not only do I value this person as a colleague, but she is a friend. If we aren’t in sync and on the same page, it is hard for us to be successful in our work. So often, I find myself running from meeting to meeting with my to-do list in hand. I forgot how valuable conversation can be.
We are counselors; this touchy-feely stuff is our niche. However, just simply asking our co-workers how they are and what is going on in their lives makes a difference. Sharing our own challenges and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable (especially those of us in leadership positions) makes even more of a difference. Asking those around us for support makes it easier for others to ask us for support. This builds meaningful relationships and trust with those around us.
The World Happiness Report 2017 found that the level of support that a worker receives from his or her co-workers is a very strong predictor of all four measures of subjective wellbeing utilized in the study: life satisfaction, job satisfaction, happiness and positive affect. Our work life is a direct contributor to our overall happiness. And it makes sense – during the workweek, we may spend more time with our colleagues than we do our families.
A few days later, I had a meeting with a student. Typically, I find myself rushing from each appointment to the next or to the next task. With this lesson still in mind, I asked the student more questions than I usually would and the student shared that she was just diagnosed with an illness. I would not have been able to help the student as I did if I was not aware of her illness. Not only did the conversation uplift the student and me, it was crucial to my ability to give her all the information she needed and ultimately, her success as a student.
Take time for the people around you. Not only will they appreciate it, but also it will make all the difference in how you and your colleagues work together.