Bottom Line: Keep it Casual
Yea, yea. Everybody’s heard it, everybody knows it: people spend most of their time at work, so everybody should do what they love. How do we make sure that happens though? Especially when deadlines are creeping up like ninjas; pressure mounting like it’s being held back by the Hoover Dam?
We’ve got an idea. Far from revolutionary, probably not the first time you’ve heard of it. But maybe it hasn’t been fully explained the right way.
Keep it casual.
Keep things loose.
Have some fun, don’t force stuff, get weird.
Because ever since that first scary day mom kicked us out the car to go to Kindergarten, in a building filled with strangers ruled by authoritarian figures we’d never met before, we’ve been told to act like grown-ups. To use indoor voices, use manners. We say screw that. Well, not exactly. More of a “let’s rethink what that means.” Keep reading, we think you’ll get the idea.
It starts with respect.
That thing Aretha Franklin sang about all those years ago. Not familiar? Somebody on your team is, and would probably be stoked to belt it in a karaoke session to show you the ropes.
It’s valuing everybody’s opinion regardless of position. Knowing that the world is filled with people who believe different things, come from different backgrounds, and all of those perspectives are equally valuable. Not having, but welcoming, these perspectives in your office lets you tap into what people on the outside may think. It might give your designers a new way of looking at what they’re crafting, your engineers a solution to a problem they didn’t even know existed.
It could even give you new ways of thinking about what you do.
Part of respect is empathy.
Being genuinely interested in people’s lives. Once you start to get to know people, you inevitably become closer. No, not everybody will be best friends. As much as any company tries to force the concept of family, we shouldn’t pretend, or even want, our work relationships to be anywhere close to the bond we have with our loved ones.
But bonding, laughing, making jokes is part of the human experience, and after all, that’s what we all are. When people get closer they’re a little looser. Less afraid to take risks or speak up when they have a good idea. Sure, there’ll be arguments, disagreements, you’ll get pissed off at each other from time to time. But that’s a sign of passion, and when you like and respect a person, it’s a lot harder to let feelings of resentment linger.
When you like who you work for, and with, you respect them and feel they do you, you’re ready to go to battle with them. More willing to put in the extra effort to move things from good to great, not because of a sense of need or obligation, but because everybody cares about succeeding as a whole. And if it takes a fart joke or three from the resident wiseass to relieve some of the, er, pressure, then let ‘em have at it.
What about clients, investors, customers?
Well, here’s a dirty little secret: they’re just people too. Keeping things light, and on a humanistic level, makes people pull for you. They see you as another human with hopes and dreams rather than somebody hustling for money before moving on to the next thing. Talking about sports, music, that embarrassing moment when you fell on your face dancing out too late one night? We shouldn’t be afraid to bring that up. We should be afraid not to, because in doing so we open the doors to meaningful connections.
After all, everybody wants to see the good in people – even the biggest cynic secretly wants to be pleasantly surprised by being proved wrong. (Trust us. There’s a lot of us out there). And when you break down the barriers we arbitrarily put up like a weird social construct of the Berlin Wall, it makes it easier to work together if things get tough. It makes it smoother to work through mistakes, it makes the good times a blast and the rough ones bearable.
Part of what we believe in is helping foster this culture of casualness.
Sure, you can make mandatory meetings or have awkward team building exercises. Let’s be real though – nobody wants to have a Michael Scott in real life.
It can be hard enough to watch on Netflix sometimes.
What’s not? Cooking shows, and there’s a reason why. People bond over food, it’s a common connection regardless of culture, age, or various interests. It’s why every holiday is based around food. Think Christmas tamales, Thanksgiving turkey, Halloween candy, Fourth of July burgers. It brings people together, gives them an excuse to get to know each other better, to catch up when it’s been too long.
So while we’re not trying to peddle here, we do want to encourage you and the coworkers from across the building to grab a bite together sometime. It gives you the pretense to laugh, vent, create a sense of camaraderie without feeling too forced. And if the conversation ever lulls, food’s always an easy way to chisel at the ice.
Have fun out there, after all, that should be the end goal of everything we all do.