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THE SCENARIO

In our organization, people are polite to each other and co-workers tend to chat only on a superficial level. I believe that if there were stronger relationships in our workplace, people would work better together. How can I build more camaraderie?

THE ADVICE

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You are absolutely right - encouraging and building strong relationships in your organization will contribute to the success of the employees and the business. It won't happen overnight, but small steps can make huge contributions. Here are some easy ideas:

Set the example

As the leader, make a conscious effort to walk around the workplace more often and stop and talk to people. Invite other employees into the conversation to create connections. This process will give employees permission to stop and talk during the day and understand that relationships are a part of the corporate culture.

Group efforts

Maybe there is a not-for-profit group your company is interested in supporting, or a new business system being contemplated. If staff are involved in investigating, planning and executing an idea, relationships will grow from the common bond.

Mentoring

Not only will mentoring help the professional development of employees and demonstrate the dedication of the company to its staff, it's also a great way for people to get to know more about each other, especially across generations. By encouraging the group of learners to connect, additional relationships can be created from their sharing of information and learning.

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Cross-training

Having staff who can cover for the responsibilities of their co-workers not only works in the company's best interest, but also helps to develop relationships during the training process. Time spent together builds bonds between peers and encourages a supportive team environment. Remember, however, that there must be no perceived threat to job security; if employees feel they might lost their job because others are being trained to do their work, morale quickly drops.

Sharing views

Encouraging employees to share their thoughts and opinions in an informal online blog can bring out new insights about the contributors, and will stimulate staff to discuss their similar interests and views. Also, encouraging staff to add personal touches to their workspace, such as family or vacation photos, can raise interaction as people find common interests.

Promote get-togethers

Companies that tightened their budgets for holiday parties in recent years should consider reviving social gatherings. There is no need for elaborate events; the gatherings could be as simple as organizing a company hockey team or a walking group. Ask for staff volunteers to form a social committee to get the ball rolling and make it part of the company culture.

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Cindy Gordon is an employee engagement specialist, life coach and owner of Culture Shock Coaching in Toronto.

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