Socialization in the Workplace

Mar 11, 2020

People grow by having great conversations, interacting with others, and discussing new and innovative ideas. The workplace is a great place for these things to happen, especially considering employees spend so much of their time in the office. 

In my book, Culture Reconstructed (release January 2020), I unpack the building blocks of remarkable culture, and communication is at the top of the list. There are certainly different personalities at work in any given office environment, but we shouldn’t use those as an excuse to not interact. 

Formal and informal conversations are both valuable in getting work done, building a sustainable team, and increasing the joy in work. 

If you don’t have the ability to communicate, whether it be written, video or in-person you will always struggle with advancing in your career. I love the following research that the Weber Shandwick firm completed recently: “Research revealed that only four in ten employees can confidently describe to others what their employer does or what its goals are at any given point. Fewer than three in ten report that they are being communicated with, listened to, and kept in the loop.”

Though this research mainly pertains to organizational communication, it has a lot to do with being social in the workplace and how that can affect the impact of each employee. Time is precious and investing time in talking to co-workers about work and non-work related topics is a wonderful way to grow empathy and get to know the “why” behind their tendencies.

The level of socialization in the workplace is greatly dependent on the culture established by leadership. Some employees shy away at opportunities to get to know their colleagues in the workplace for fear of disappointing bosses who want constant productivity. 

I would argue that the positives of workplace socialization far outweigh the negatives. Even if interactions aren’t always “productive”, they build connections between employees that help with collaboration in the long run. 

Among the reasons to seek out social connections in the workplace, Forbes lists less stress, more engagement, and a healthier life as secondary benefits. For business leaders looking to create healthy teams, both at work and in their everyday lives, the importance of building relationships with coworkers should not be discounted. 

Now, this isn’t to say that employees should be encouraged to socialize all the time. If that were the case, productivity would eventually suffer. But finding a healthy balance in the workplace is imperative to the long term benefits to a company. Business leaders should remember to take the initiative in creating a workplace where people make connections. Encourage team members to share a meal together, interact with other departments, or even consider creating a social spot for brief, but incredibly beneficial conversations to take place. 

With all that being said, I would make a distinction between socialization in the workplace and social media in the workplace. Though both allow for connection, social media tends to distract more than help when it comes to face-to-face interactions that can take place at work. In a survey by Sprout Social, “Two-thirds of employees check social media during the workday, and 50% of those people are on it for more than an hour.” Social media from my opinion is a wonderful thing and has many benefits, but turning your phone to airplane mode and being present with others will do you well in your career. 

In Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset, she shares her belief that people either have a growth or fixed mindset in their approach to work and life. This goes back to my first point that people grow by having great conversations, interacting with others, and discussing new and innovative ideas. It’s worth repeating because it’s incredibly powerful for any person in any field. We all know that certain careers are less “social” than others, but being open to learning someone’s story face to face is a lost art that should be reignited in more work environments. By adopting this growth mindset you contribute to the reduction of red tape in office settings and even help with conflict resolution when tensions rise. 

As you consider the role of socialization in the workplace, remind yourself that sacrificing constant productivity in the present will lead to an overall increase in employee satisfaction and productivity in the long run.


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