by Roia Ferrazares //
It is a very human need to want the work that we do to have an impact, and to look for cues from people around us to confirm it. For those of us that work at UC Berkeley, watching the ways students bravely challenge themselves in the classroom can be daily fodder for our souls, and a healthy reminder that our work has a greater purpose, even if what we do every day is sit at a computer and get invoices paid. But there is only so far passive cues can go to stocking up on our goodwill, especially when we find ourselves drawing down on it in spades during busy and stressful times. A word or gesture in our direction, any active stance in recognizing how hard we apply ourselves in doing our part, is a necessary and essential part of any healthy work culture.
Supervisors obviously have a role to play in strategizing ways to actively recognize the good work of their staff, but I would argue that we all have a role to play in this, regardless of whether it is a formal one. Some people do it well and often – they’re the ones that were trained early to write thank you or holiday cards, or perhaps they return from vacation with chocolates for co-workers to share – but for most of us, remembering to recognize others often must be an intentional task that we have to set our minds to. As a daily practice, I have three basic principles I follow:
- Remember in the best intentions of others, even when tasks are not going as expected, which translates to: say something positive and encouraging before you offer critical feedback and always maintain the self-esteem of others.
- Take initiative, more often than just quarterly check-ins, to offer support and resources if they are needed for success. Sometimes the resource staff most need is your own investment in time to find out how it’s going, so consider informal check-ins weekly with your staff.
- Relate to others as humans, be compassionate. Do they care for an aging parent or do they have children at home? Learn about them as people and remember to ask about how things are going outside of work.
With this compass for daily interactions, trust and respect are natural outgrowths in one-on-one relationships. Still, more is needed for the group to feel recognized and respected, and the active stance toward groups looks different than it does for individuals. As a manager, recognizing and appreciating a groups is one of our core responsibilities. Here are some tips that I’ve learned and seen used:
- Use monthly staff meetings to creatively appreciate the group. Bring in snacks (could just be tangerines), play a game, or offer some down time in the meeting so people can banter and enjoy each other. Be sure to devote one meeting at least every six months, to do a go-round and just let everyone share what’s on their minds, and ask each person to appreciate the person next to them, so that everyone leaves the meeting feeling seen and heard.
- Make sure that annual retreats are not just about work, but about fun too. Cooking classes, bowling, baseball games, lunch, or even overnights at a cabin are ways to get people to interact more socially. We’ve also gone on walks around campus together, up the campanile or to explore a lunch restaurant on campus.
- Engage staff on decisions and planning for the organization, even if their responsibilities in the unit are limited. It might be a strategic planning retreat where staff are invited to contribute, or a personal invitation for staff to join a town hall meeting.
The professional relationships we forge with each other are real and can be life-long. Every person, regardless of their role, has the capacity to lead by example, and think past themselves to think well about the group. It is this kind of leadership, when colleagues see the best in each other and are invited to bring their authentic selves to work, that inspires people to do their best work!