As a business owner, do you get impatient when you see employees standing around chewing the fat? Try thinking about it another way. By establishing close social connections, your employees are doing something very positive for the company.
Giving your employees a chance to develop personal friendships means they’ll be better able to work as a team. Blake Ashforth, a management professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, agrees that building these social ties can be good for business. “When you come to know people on a personal level,” he says, “you’re far more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt and to have goodwill in your dealings. And that’s a tremendous buffer against the itches and pains of everyday life in organizations.”
Small companies have an advantage over large ones here. The most cost-effective (and probably the most powerful) way to promote this feeling of belonging and connection is to allow room for it to happen organically. In large corporations, these sorts of social ties — beyond those with immediate co-workers — have to be created artificially, through team-building exercises or other initiatives that employees are likely to find sort of hokey. Small companies generally have their people all under one roof, and few enough employees that they all bump up against each other every day.
These relationships are built one water cooler conversation at a time. Try not to begrudge your team the time to socialize. It will pay off down the road when they’re better able to problem solve together or to work as a tight team to meet a challenging deadline. At Tribe, our people spend a lot of the day laughing and teasing and telling stories. But I think that’s part of why we’re such an incredibly productive company, despite our small staff.
Personal connections among your staff members — and with you — can also build loyalty to your company. When people feel like they belong, that they’re cared about, that they’re appreciated for who they are as people as well as employees, they’re far less likely to be looking around for other opportunities.