How to Build Relationships When Colleagues are Here, There or Anywhere

homeoffice

Open office. Hoteling. Agile office environments.

Whatever you want to call it, working here, there, and everywhere is here to stay. Without water cooler talk, chance hallway meetings, and idle conversation waiting for meetings to begin, it can be hard to develop relationships with new colleagues or keep existing relationships strong and healthy.

Relationship development often gets overlooked when people are not collocated with their team.  People tend to focus primarily on the tasks and the work and forget to develop a relationship with remote workers like the ones they have with their collocated colleagues. 

Here are three quick tips to stay connected with your colleagues who are officeing elsewhere.

1) Use a webcam for as many interactions as you can. Many times remote workers are reluctant to do this – they may be uncomfortable on camera, not in a perfect environment, or any number of other reasons. When they do get on camera, however, it is much easier for their counterparts, whether located in a central office or remotely themselves – to see them as human. As such, colleagues are less likely to make assumptions, blame, or act negatively toward each other.

2) Make small talk.  It is especially important to do so while waiting for all parties to get on the line on a conference call, WebEx, or videoconference. Make small talk with those dialing in just like you would if they were in the same room.  I’ve seen those who are collocated put the remote workers on mute and have the small talk without them. The remote workers, more than anyone, need to be included in the small talk to develop relationships.  This does a great disservice to the relationship and the project work.  When people have deeper relationships, it is easier to have difficult conversations, deal with problems, and handle conflict. 

3) See each other’s space. If you are not in the main office or headquarters, share pictures of your home office environment with your colleagues. This is another technique for humanizing the remote workers and developing relationships with them.

In the comments below, add the tips you have for staying connected with your colleagues who are here, there, or anywhere.

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    no_ninjas_rockstars1

    no_ninjas_rockstars1

    Last week I attended a TechCities Women in Technology panel discussion titled “Finding the Talent to Win” at the Carlson School of Management. Women from some of Minnesota’s fastest growing tech companies shared their perspectives on recruiting, hiring and retaining women in the high tech market in the Minneapolis St. Paul region.

    The conversation was stimulating and fast paced and, as any good panel discussion does, included many questions and contributions from audience members (including men).

    Here are my top three take-aways from the discussion:

    1. Learn the language of the space.

    Caroline Karanja, Senior Manager at LeadPages, emphasized that organizations have their own language and that’s it’s strategic to learn the language. Speaking to others in their native language is how you get things done.

    Caroline shared the example of how she’s transitioned from the turn of phrase “I have have a gut feeling” when working with male co-workers to “I have a hypothesis.” Why the shift?  Intuitive hunches are ideas likely to be dismissed by analytical colleagues (male or female) but hypothesis are ideas to be tested, ideas that data-driven decisions can be made around. The idea has not changed. What has changed is the way she frames the idea.
    Frame the idea in the language of the space.

    2. Don’t advertise for ninjas.

    Vocabulary draws people in or turns them away. Emily McAuliffe, VP Strategy & Account Director at Clockwork Active Media, skillfully moderated the discussion. As she transitioned the discussion to attracting more female employees, McAuliffe aptly noted, “Companies are advertising for PHP ninjas. No one but my ten year old wants to be a ninja.”

    How the role is positioned says a lot about the culture of the organization. When organizations actively seek out MySQL “warriors” or PHP “ninjas,” those for whom the ancient art of Japanese warfare don’t resonate are not likely to apply. The functions of the ancient ninja included espionage and assassination. Not typically the things that women, who lean more toward collaboration than annihilation, are looking for in their next career move.

    Word to the wise: If you want to attract women, write job descriptions that resonate with women.

    3. Speak up.

    Angie Franks, Chief Marketing Officer at Sport Ngin, stressed that women in technology often don’t use their voice. “I can’t tell you how many times a woman has come up to me with a great idea – after the meeting,” she remarked. “Use your voice,” she implored the women in the audience.

    Speak up, even if you aren’t sure if you’re right. Taking a stand for something will help to develop the confidence to speak up again the next time. Contribute to the discussion, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

     

    All of these top lessons come down to one theme: effective communication.

    >> Culture is expressed through communication (and everyone insisted the right cultural fit between employee and employer is critical).

    >> Effective communication is paramount in attracting the right employees.

    >> Confident communication is imperative in ensuring that all the best ideas are put on the table – during the meeting.

     

    Question: What are some of the worst examples you’ve experienced – where the words/language/culture did not resonate with you?

    Share your answers on Facebook.

    Like this? Share this post with a friend today.

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