Wanted: The Human Connection At WorkAugust 12, 2011
In one of my first years of teaching at a small college in Central Massachusetts, a student told me I had ruined TV for him. When I asked him why, he told me that he was now always analyzing the relationships on TV and trying to figure out what could be better or different?
I didn’t think it was such a bad thing, especially given what is usually on TV. But more importantly, being able to analyze, understand and re-imagine situations is a valuable skill, at work and in our relationships as well.
What’s missing for many people at work is the human connection and I’m not sure why. Do some people not want it? Is it fear that keeps people disconnected? Is it the safer way? Is it a way of being professional?
Here’s what I saw in only part of one day.
I started my day with a non-conversation on the phone with my Bank of America service representative who just read off a script: ”Thank you Mr. Tobin for being a valued customer of Bank of America since 1985″. ’Have a pleasant day, [insert customer name]. The person was courteous but there was no heart or connection in the message.
Later in the day , I suffered through a powerpoint presentation where the speaker packed each slide with words, gave each of us a copy of his slides and sat [off to the side where we could not see him] and read off the slides. There was no color, no bullet points, no involvement, no emotion, no connection. Just black words on a white screen.
It was no wonder that at the end of the presentation there were no questions. We, and there were more than 30 people in the room, were exhausted.
Next, I headed to a friend’s small office to meet with him. He showed me around his office which took only 15 minutes but never introduced the three people who were working there. Maybe he didn’t want to interrupt them, but certainly my arrival already had interrupted them. By the way, one of those working there was his daughter.
What makes work great is the human connection. What makes work fun is the human connection. Connecting with the people.
Which made me start thinking that it may be the policies of some companies that prevent people from connecting.
Bank of America tells people to follow the script. [Is it any wonder that Zappos is such a great success? There is no script there. They want people to connect and take care of the customers]
The bad powerpoint presenter was just following a too-well accepted norm. In fact, my students tell me that when they present in an innovative way, they are criticized by their professors.
My friend in his small office may want people to be productive.
I walk into many offices every week where people are just glued to the computer screen. I wonder what they are doing, especially in those places that are supposed to focus on the customer.
I don’t get it. When I connect with people, I forget about the clock. I do what is needed to do the job as well as I can. I stay with clients when I feel connected. I am happy when I see certain people at the university who I enjoy talking with.
How about you?
How important is the human connection for you? How can you get more of it?
And if you are a leader?
If you are leading a company or a group, have you created policies, procedures and norms that prevent people from having a more human connection? Think about it. If you don’t think so, ask some of the people who work with you?
Do you have so many rules that people have lost the opportunity to use their own judgement?
Do you get to have all the fun-going out meeting people, while the people in the office stay and support you?
Do you have so many meetings where people just sit passively, or talk but don’t connect?
Do you discourage socializing and social events?. You say you “want people to get home early”, or “there’s no money in the budget”. These are good reasons but they are good excuses too.
Years ago, in a project in the Philippines, we brought the back office people out in the field to meet the customers. Customer and employee loyalty skyrocketed. The back office people became stronger partners who could do there job better and enjoy it more too.
In a project with another client, we built dinners and social events into the team building events. We reduced the rules and monitoring so people could connect. And the food was good too.
What can you do to connect with the people who work with you?
How can you make it easier for people to connect with each other?
The place to start: Connect with the person in the next room, the next cubicle.