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Colleagues, friends and teams

Read how to build your resilience at work by improving your relationships and collaboration with co-workers.
Business people high fiving at meeting in cafe
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Our personal and professional lives depend on the vitality of our relationships, which, in turn, help build our everyday resilience.

In the first week of this course we discovered that resilience is not just something you’re born with; it happens in connection with others.

In the previous step we looked at compassion as a way of activating that connection with others in our lives.

The question we’ll now address is: how do we learn to apply this in our everyday life and particularly in our workplace, where many of us spend the largest component of our day?

Understanding the ripple effect

Sharon Salzberg, one of the leaders of the mindfulness movement and author of Real happiness at work, writes about the ‘ripple effect’ of influence and interdependence between our personal and professional lives.

In particular, Salzberg refers to some intriguing research that dramatically illustrates the strength of this ripple effect. This research is based on a study by Baylor University, which showed that if you’re coping with a difficult colleague at work, the stress you feel is likely to be translated to your partner at home.

More surprisingly, the researchers found that this ripple effect can extend even further to impact your partner’s workplace as well.

So how can we turn this ripple effect into a positive?

Understanding interdependence at work

Salzberg suggests that we stop and think about all the people we depend on to do their job well so we can do ours and then, in turn, all the people who are dependent on us to do well, so they can do their job, and so on.

Building on this idea, Salzburg writes:

When we shift awareness to acknowledge this ripple effect, we can undergo a sea change as human beings. We find ourselves filled with a new sense of responsibility toward the quality of our experience and its impact on others. The shift of awareness from ‘me’ to ‘we’ set the stage for a whole new life at work. (Real happiness at work, 2014, p. 164)

The benefits of good relationships, friendships and collaboration

There’s a lot of research that suggests that the promotion of good relationships, friendship and collaboration at work promotes both greater worker satisfaction and greater productivity.
For example, researchers from the University of Michigan suggest that (what they call) ‘heedful relating’ or (what we might call in the context of this course) ‘mindfully attending to others’ is one of the keys to thriving at work.
They summarise the ripple effects that occur when colleagues attend to one another as follows:
  • They learn more about each other’s jobs so they understand the total process better.
  • This promotes vitality, shared goals and responsibility.
  • This leads to more proactive ‘helping’ of one another.
  • This has been shown to deliver both psychological and physiological boosts in energy.
  • This also promotes learning as they observe and adopt the strategies they have seen others use.
These researchers concluded that this process leads to reflection, integration and personal growth, noting that workers who ‘heedfully’ relate to their colleagues:
… are more likely to feel responsible for the outcomes of the larger system and will be challenged to perform a range of integrative behaviours that extend beyond the boundaries of their focused work responsibilities. Consequently, heedful relating can enable individuals to acquire and use new skills, and thus experience learning. (Spreitzer et al. 2005, p. 541)

Your task

We all have our own strategies for effectively engaging with colleagues.

Which strategies have you found most successful in promoting friendship and good teamwork with your co-workers? (You may want to take a look at these ideas from Sharon Salzburg.)

Share your thoughts in the comments and don’t forget to extend the conversation by replying to other learners. You can also like the comments you find most helpful.

© Deakin University
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