Connecting Beyond the Happy Hour
When my first manager needed to get our team together, she would pull us together at 5 o'clock and we would walk downtown to get a drink. I was 24, not married, no kids, and without heavy obligations. The ask was an easy one - especially when she would buy.
Today, if that manager asked me to grab a drink, it would be a tougher ask. I'd have to make sure it worked with my wife's schedule and my kids' activities. And I don't drink now so I'd prefer we go get a smoothie. And even if I was free, I would have exhausted my introverted tendencies by the end of the day and really preferred to talk in the morning.
Building and managing relationships within a team can feel like a complex task when your team spans a wide range of life stages, personalities, locations, and beverage choices.
Still, leaders know how important it is to get others to interact beyond work tasks to strengthen their team's cohesion. Strategies that I've seen companies employ to help with this include:
Offer a mix of options. Cater to the preferences and needs of your employees by going beyond the standard happy hour. Organizing various events or activities throughout the year such as team lunches, volunteer opportunities, or wellness activities ensures that team members with different lifestyles and interests can participate in activities that resonate with them - even if it is during the work day.
Create 1:1 connections. Group settings and events may not be for everyone. Create individual connections by implementing mentorship opportunities to bridge generational gaps. Pairing experienced employees with newer team members provides an avenue for knowledge sharing and creates a sense of belonging. Need something less formal? Create coffee connections for employees to meet 1:1 and foster deeper connections among team members.
Incorporate technology. Even if your team isn't hybrid or remote, using virtual tools for team-building activities, collaborative projects, or even games can create bonds without the need for physical presence. This approach acknowledges and accommodates the diverse circumstances team members may face in their personal lives as well.
Managing relationships and teamwork in the workplace is a multifaceted task. Leaders must recognize and adapt by recognizing that one-size-fits-all solutions won't work. Being flexible in accommodating the diverse needs and preferences of their team members can create an environment that promotes collaboration and ultimately drives organizational success.