Employees should work efficiently together, but is it important that they actively like and bond with each other? It’s a tricky question to answer. On the surface, it would seem that employees who get along will be more likely to work efficiently together, and may find it easier to resolve problems. But at the same time, personal relationships at work can lead to nebulous workplace issues, and possibly, greater fallout from collaborative errors.
So just how important is employee bonding, and should you want your workers to talk to each other on a personal level?
Chemistry and the Nature of Collaboration
There are a number of high-tech collaborative tools available to modern businesses that allow, if not encourage employees to communicate regularly and work on the same projects simultaneously. But these alone aren’t enough to ensure the efficiency or utility of worker collaboration.
Effective collaboration requires mutual access to and interest in a project, as well as effective communication. This is nearly impossible for total strangers to do, even if they have a similar skill level and background. While it’s possible to improve your communicative skills all around, effective communication is as much about understanding your audience as it is anything else; only when you get to know someone well will you be able to speak to them in the most constructive way.
Similarly, it takes time to get to know someone’s strengths and weaknesses. Spending time with someone, and understanding them on a personal level, can help you accommodate these, splitting tasks and responsibilities according to your personal differences.
Conflict Resolution and Employee Understanding
Bonding is also useful when it comes to conflict resolution, which will inevitably become necessary in a stressful work environment. Oftentimes, the root cause of a problem is a personal difference. For example, if an employee misses a deadline, it’s probably because they jumped to a conclusion about a wrong deadline, or because they didn’t think it was important enough to ask for help before it was due. If an employee gets aggressive toward another in a competitive way, it may be because they don’t fully understand the other’s goals and desires.
Team bonding can accelerate the conflict resolution process. When employees better understand each other’s perspectives and differences, they can come to an agreement much faster—and forgive each other easier.
Employee Satisfaction and Retention
Let’s not forget about the impact of employee satisfaction and team bonding on employee retention. When employees feel like they’re part of a group, and they get along with the people they work with, they’re much more likely to stick with their current employer. In other words, facilitating better team bonding can lead to higher employee retention rates, saving you time and money you would have spent replacing them.
Are There Downsides?
There are clear benefits to encouraging team bonding, but are there any downsides to the approach? It’s arguable that tighter, more personal team bonds come with complications. For example, if employees feel a close personal connection to each other, it may make them more reluctant to share criticism. It could also lead to more time waste, due to personal conversations. That said, these downsides are minimal and not very impactful, especially when compared to the potential benefits.
How to Encourage More Team Bonding
So what steps can you take to encourage more bonding between employees?
- Use the right collaborative software. First, make sure you’re using software that makes it easy for employees to collaborative. If communication or cooperation is difficult, your employees will never have a chance to bond.
- Allow work in diverse groups. Make sure there are plenty of opportunities for employees to work closely with one another. Try to shake up the typical groups, too, assigning different partners on a regular basis.
- Take group breaks. Encourage employees to take breaks, including lunch, together. It’s a natural opportunity to have a low-stakes conversation—and a good chance for everyone to destress.
- Go out for lunch (or dinner). Consider taking your employees out to lunch (or dinner) periodically. It’s a way to reward good behavior, and just as importantly, you’ll give employees a good reason to talk to each other on a personal level.
- Host teambuilding events. Occasionally, consider hosting full-fledged teambuilding events. Let employees bond with each other over games, workshops, or collaborative projects.
Employee bonding may not be the most important element in your productivity strategy, but it’s certainly worth exploring; despite a handful of possible downsides, there are many upsides that effective team bonding can provide to your team dynamics. Ultimately, if you choose to facilitate and encourage more personal socialization and bonding between your employees, you should see a major improvement both to individual employee disposition and your group’s productivity as a whole.