Preventing Burnout: Community

A workplace can be a community or a battleground. People do not simply co-exist; they interact. They can ignore one another for only so long. Eventually people will either support or undermine those around them. The supportive side increases the chances of experiencing a fulfilling worklife.

The balance of demands and resources at work has a big impact on whether people experience burnout or engagement. The central idea is that people enjoy doing work they consider important. Having sufficient resources to address demands is a fulfilling experience. People can see a positive impact of their work. They can further what they truly value. Lacking sufficient resources is discouraging. The demands require people to put in the effort, but the lack of resources makes success unlikely.

People can be the greatest resource at work or the most draining demand. Rude or inconsiderate behavior from colleagues can be especially draining. It drains energy for no good reason. When working hard to create a product or provide a service, the experience can be fulfilling despite making big demands on one’s energy or concentration. That experience is very different from putting up with bad behaviors from colleagues. That experience drains energy without having anything of value to show at the end.

In contrast, supportive contact with colleagues provides energy, information, skills, and assistance. Constructive relationships with people at work increase the chances that people will fulfill their aspirations and further what they truly value through their work.

Supportive relationships do not just happen. Even your best friends make demands at times. The difference is that they contribute rather than drain. Although much of the process is effortless, supportive relationships do require some attention, consideration, and accommodation.

What To Do

Even when things are going well, taking initiative in maintaining social relationships is a good idea. When relationships are going poorly at work, taking initiative is critical.

• Express Appreciation. Expressing appreciation for your colleagues’ contributions is so easy and often neglected. Research has shown that appreciation from colleagues has a more powerful impact than recognition from bosses. Part of the reason is that colleagues are more intimately aware of the fine points of your work than do bosses. You can have a real impact for modest effort.

• Pay Attention. Much of the time people work in parallel without attending closely to one another. That makes sense for the routine parts of the job. However, you can add another dimension to your work day and a colleague’s workday by adding some interactions through the course of a workday. Social contact strengthens a connection that provides a meaningful substance to your workplace resources.

• Accommodate. Accommodating others is the fundamental element of workplace civility. Modifying your standard ways of working to include others and to help their workday go more smoothly, has a big impact on others. It also deepens the extent to which you appreciate others. It makes a difference.

People do not always notice immediately the subtle changes you make in your social encounters. Subtle is important but also easy to overlook. When determined to change the quality of your workplace social contacts, it is important to take a long-term view with a commitment to persist in your campaign over time.

Previous posts in this series:

Preventing Burnout

Preventing Burnout: Monitoring

Preventing Burnout: Pacing

Preventing Burnout: Job Crafting


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