Build your company up with good communication!

Small talk is amazing at work. During lunch break, waiting by the coffee machine, in the lounge and resting areas fearlessly created these days by the company itself..  It is nice to spend time together talking about this and that. These small conversations are priceless for establishing the communicative relationship employees have with one another. Recently a friend of mine who works in the HR department of a company uttered this sentence: “We are planning to host a picnic so that people can exchange a few words, have some time to socialize.” I asked what they are planning to get them to socialize. “We are thinking tug of war.” she said. Games, competitions, et cetera…  “Nice” I said, “I hope it’s helpful…”

I called after the picnic, curious. Was the desired social environment created? “oh of course not, everyone just went along and clung to the few people they normally talk to. On top of that, women and men even stood segregated. Tug of war, too, happened in separate teams. Anyway, at least it’s done. Now we can say we’ve done what we could.”

I will ask you what I asked her: “Is this really the best you can do?”

Forcefully implementing an activity that is not inherent to the culture suggests the relationship between water and oil. You shake it hard enough and it seems as though the two liquids have blended, but in a moment the oil is back to the surface, alone. The density of two matters are different from each other. Water and oil are molecules with completely different compositions.

A company can have hundreds of employees. The fact that these employees are different than each other does not mean they can never communicate successfully. What creates the space required for healthy communication is the company culture. If the company culture supports and encourages friendly behaviors, conversations, relationships in its interior communication then this space flourishes autochthonously. If there is a lack of said support, resistance forms.

It becomes clear in numerous activities we implement in companies that people  are indeed eager to communicate with one another and socialize, but that they run into obstacles in effort to do so. During one activity when a general manager shared a private matter with some operational managers working under him, they looked at him in surprise and one of them reflexively uttered: “How weird, it’s just like normal people!”

We laughed all together at that sentence. In truth, it was one that begged for a long critical conversation. How can we expect there to be friendly, normal relationships in a company that is under the management of a GM who doesn’t even appear like a normal person? The GM himself wanted to discuss the matter and they chatted among themselves. We were merely onlookers at the scene. This is the most beautiful part of the Engage&Grow workshops to me. You point to a few doors and the key, and suddenly all the locks are unlocked, the conversation is richer like its companion coffee, newly refilled. This is exactly what is aimed for and needed. Not a consultant to answer the questions and list the solutions, not a weekend trip to a picnic — by ripping people from their families and private time — and being handed a rope to tug. There are doors and locks, and the keys are right in front of you.

There are some who say that company culture doesn’t change easily and they are right.  No one is saying that change is easy… Creating goals, having the intention and starting the process of change and showing a genuine effort on this path is a huge success in itself.

Let me make a list of all I am considering as usual.

  • Close relationships may not be easy for everyone but communicating sincerely is. If you find it hard to smile in the morning entering the building, saying good morning, you have your work cut out for you. Think for a second: “What am I doing here?” Maybe you are meant to be a coast guard sitting by themselves by the sea, waiting to run to the rescue if someone needs you.
  • Do not ignore the cultural dynamics of the company and force people to communicate with one another. I often give this sentence as an example: “They host a Happy Hour every Friday so that we get to love each other, we leave work hating each other more.” Instead, support and increase the number of environments where communication will naturally arise.
  • Conceit is one of the most prevalent viruses in a company. Where there is conceit there cannot be communication. The conceit of executive teams trickles down from top to bottom in record speed. Think carefully about conceit. Could you be thinking of yourself too superior to form close relationships with others? What is it that makes you so perfect and superior, then?

By the way, tug of war is a good game. It lets us push and pull, in fits and starts, laughing along, like when we were kids. But only if there is already communication between us…

Isik Serifsoy

CEO Engage & Grow

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