Team Building Skills
Each place you work will have a different workplace culture. Understanding your specific workplace culture will help you fit in and reduce your stress level. A workplace culture is the set of formal and informal rules that govern the interactions between the people who work there. Formal rules are written company policies and procedures. Informal rules are the unwritten ones that you learn as you work there. Some companies are very rigid with strict dress codes and formal lines of communication whereas other companies are more relaxed allowing employees to wear jeans and address each other by their first names.
As a new employee, it will take you a while to understand the workplace culture, but you can begin analyzing it whenever you come to the company. For example, pay attention to how you are greeted when you drop off your application or come for your interview. As you walk to your interview location, observe the workers and their workspaces. Once you are hired, you may be given a handbook, which may explain some of the workplace culture, for example the formal rules such as dress code and chain of command.
In a new work environment, you should always try to "fit in" with your coworkers. Here are some things to consider:
- Dress Code: If there is a written policy, be sure to follow it. You can observe the manner of dress when you come to the work site, and it is appropriate to ask about the dress code when you are hired. Be aware that terms such as "casual Fridays" mean different things in different companies; do not assume you can wear jeans. It is best to mimic your coworkers' style of dress. After you are familiar with the organization and its clothing expectations, you can adjust for your own tastes.
- The Workspace: Notice when you walk through the company how the offices are organized: Are there offices, cubicles, or open spaces with desks? Notice whether the workspaces are stark or decorated with personal items. Always observe others in their workspaces before decorating yours. Also, observe things such as whether eating and drinking at your desk is permitted and whether casual conversation or personal phone calls and e-mail are allowed.
- Chain of Command: It's important to know your place in the chain of command: who is your boss, who are your peers, and who are your subordinates. Knowing your place in the chain of command is important for communication. Once you know the hierarchy, you should also learn how you are expected to relate to those above, beside, and below you. There could be a more formal relationship with those above and below you and an informal relationship with your peers. Remember that each workplace will have its own expectations.
- Communication Style: This also has to do with the chain of command. Knowing how you are expected to communicate with your coworkers is extremely important. Some organizations want everything written formally while other organizations prefer a verbal transfer of information. It is important to know how often you are expected to communicate and what information you are expected to pass on to others. Perhaps there is a weekly meeting where departmental information is shared or information is passed through group e-mails.
- Evaluation: Knowing how you will be evaluated and given feedback is critical to your success in a new company. You may learn this during the interview process, and it is fair for you to ask what you can expect. Some companies have formal, written evaluation procedures whereas other companies are more casual. You should know how often you will be evaluated and by whom. There may be informal as well as formal evaluation periods. Not only is it important to know about the evaluation procedures because that will help you become a better employee, it is also important because most companies base raises and promotions on evaluations.
- Teamwork: Most companies use a lot of teamwork in day-to-day operations. Knowing what your roles and expectations will be is important. As the new member of the team, try to observe how others interact and relate to one another. Notice how ideas are brainstormed and how goals are defined. Rather than becoming stressed by the new situation, ask your experienced teammates about their expectations from you. As the new employee, you are expected to ask questions, so take advantage of it.
- Relationships: Some companies want everyone to feel like family. In these organizations, there may be expectations that you and your family will attend and socialize at company events such as picnics, parties, or weekend excursions. Other companies are stricter and strongly discourage employee contacts outside the workplace. These more rigid organizations discourage disclosure of personal information and stress formal coworker relationships. Some people feel uncomfortable socializing with coworkers while others are enthused about it.
Once you understand your workplace culture, it will make it easier for you to judge how comfortable you are fitting in with your coworkers. If you like to keep your work and family separate, and you do not want your coworkers knowing your personal activities, a strong "family oriented" workplace will undoubtedly make you feel uncomfortable. That will lead to stress. On the other hand, if you are someone who likes to get to know your coworkers and wants to be friends with them, you would be very frustrated in a very formal, rigid work environment.
Think about your personality and preferences. What would the different environmental variables above mean to you? If there are specific things you could not tolerate, then that environment would not be good for you. The best workplace for you is the one where you feel the most comfortable.
Always remember that each team member is an individual person. In addition to each member having individual likes and dislikes, each person has individual values. These values are what are important in his or her life. Values represent a person's priorities. People cannot very easily leave their values at the doorstep; they are an important part of who each person is. It is important for the team to not discredit or devalue another member's values, or the team will lose that person's commitment to the group.
A good team should also have values. Those values come from the leaders of the team and the administration of the company. Many corporations have value statements, vision statements, and mission statements.
- Values statements identify the qualities and traits that the company considers worthwhile. Some value statements may state how customers are to be treated or about the internal community.
- Vision statements state where the company wants to go in the
future. It will give employees direction for the future.
- Mission statements state what organizations do. The statement explains why the organization exists. Every employee should be able to state their company's mission statement AND support it.
If the members of the team are unaware of their individual values and how those values impact their work, they might attend a workshop or have a team building exercise incorporated into a team meeting. Listed below are some values, and while this list is not exhaustive it is a good starting point when thinking about individual and team values.
- Personal Growth
Next section: Developing Teams