As we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, I find myself thinking about family a lot. Admittedly, this involves worrying about such things as how we can help my two nephews who are out of work and what we will do about my octogenarian parents when they are unable to live alone any longer. Even so, I get that warm and fuzzy feeling as I look forward to sharing Thanksgiving dinner with family and then celebrating Dad’s birthday a few days later. We’ve started buying Christmas presents and imagining the looks on the faces of our grandnephews and grandnieces on Christmas morning. I keep catching myself singing Christmas songs in the shower. But then I go to work. Wouldn’t it be great if I could carry that family feeling with me?
Seventh in a series.
Zappos Core Value #7: Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
One of my favorite memories from the early 1980s is Sisters Sledge singing “We Are Family.” It’s just such a goofy, upbeat song that I can’t help bobbing my head and singing along.
It’s interesting that we tend to think of work and family as diametrically opposed concepts. After all, work is what takes us away from our families, right? And yet, most of us who have worked in a particular location for any period of time seem to develop “work friendships” that may or may not spill over into our personal lives outside of the office. More romances than anyone can count have blossomed among coworkers. (My wife and I, now married for nearly 17 years, serve as a prime example.) And I keep hearing about close platonic relationships at work among “work husbands” and “work wives.” Whether it’s a girls’ night out or just a chat over the cubicle divider, we try to bring “that family feeling” into the workplace.
And why shouldn’t we? Developing positive relationships makes our days at work a lot more pleasant than they would be if we had to toil in solitary silence. Plus, it’s nice to have people with whom we can “talk shop” and who understand exactly what’s going on without having to explain everything from scratch. They know how it is and they can commiserate with us.
When I don’t understand something at work, it’s nice not to have to run to the boss when I can go to a friendly coworker for help and know he won’t roll his eyes. There are coworkers who allow me to brainstorm with them and who will warn me if my bright idea is really rather lame. And, of course, it’s a mighty good feeling to celebrate successes as a team.
I like the phrase “family spirit” that Zappos uses. Family implies pooling resources for mutual benefit. It also implies mutual regard and teamwork. These are “feel good” attributes that don’t have to be limited to our home lives. It’s a shame that too many, both employers and employees, seem to prefer to make work a misery for everyone involved, including the customers.
When employees share responsibilities and share details of their personal lives, we can avoid that unnatural line of demarcation between home life and work life that some believe is inevitable. Ultimately, it’s our own decision whether we are going to make the most of our time at work or just dread every minute that we have to be there.
It is encouraging that some companies value their employees enough to be cheerleaders, fully invested in their success. Often, this starts with injecting fun into the work environment, allowing employees to be themselves. I value the feeling of togetherness among coworkers. This is where I start singing the Sisters Sledge song.
Some will tell you that this is artificial and forced, that we are just at work to do a job, get paid and go home. I, for one, refuse to live my life that way. Life is way too short for such foolishness. And it is well known that happy employees lead to happy customers and a successful business. “Teamwork makes the dream work” is not a meaningless phrase.
Unless, of course, we want it to be.
Tomorrow: Core Value # 8 – Do More with Less