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New co-workers every day?

Ever feel disconnected from those around you, even though you work with lots of people? Feeling a sense of connection to others has a big impact on feeling committed and engaged at work. Yet, we find ourselves interacting with more people with different kinds of expertise in order to tackle more complex issues in organizations.

In cases like product design, construction, or medical teams, connections are temporary and based on what we know about each other’s roles. Airline flight crews might rotate different pilots, cleaners, flight attendants, and baggage handlers over the course of days, weeks, and months. We still connect with each other in these situations, but based on expectations that different individuals will similarly perform the same tasks, rather than what we know about each other as people.

Based on my ongoing research on coordination on years-long construction projects, where over a thousand individuals might rotate through roles, you can increase the potential for connection in a few ways:

  1. Drop the shop talk. Use breaks to learn about each other as individuals, perhaps with quick get-to-know-you’s about your last project/flight/patient. People appreciate showing their full selves at work.

  2. Meet as a group. Construction crews and medical teams do morning huddles to learn about how they will interact in their roles that day, and to see how each person plans, reacts and adapts.

  3. Praise in public. In your huddles or meetings, make sure to publicly highlight individuals’ contributions to the group. It might help to have a quirky, inexpensive, yet meaningful prize (one site gave out blank “silver” bullets!). People want to join in appreciating each other.

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