Despite the advances of technology over the past decade or so, corporate practices regarding their employees have still, in a way, remained analog. Even with the great 2020 pandemic, when companies around the world were forced to pivot to a work-from-home or mobile work setup, many companies insisted on ‘the old ways’.
Now, we could go on and on about which corporate practices are, in our opinion, outdated, but one corporate policy that we at InternZoo believe to be not just outdated but detrimental to corporate work is the lack of camaraderie between employees. In fact, thousands of companies around the world actively discourage it, or, their encouragement of it doesn’t really extend outside of the annual summer team building exercises.
But study after study, both now and from 20 and even 30 years ago, has consistently shown that employees who identify with each other, who actually like each other, achieve results far greater than what they could have done alone.
However, camaraderie in the work force is still something frowned upon. Why is this? You see multiple companies discourage mixing managers and employees and even have iron-clad agreements banning camaraderie in the workplace. Sure, 90% of this is for the company to abstain from any legal liabilities should any kind of workplace camaraderie go awry, and that’s understandable: however, it’s not an excuse to forego it altogether.
Of course, in the workplace, you can’t force camaraderie: after all, it’s not like you can take a room full of adults and tell them they’re now friends. However, there are plenty of ways that you could encourage camaraderie in your workforce, build interpersonal connections between your employees, and ultimately, create a corporate culture that encourages teamwork rather than competition, and placing a premium on the wellbeing of a person over their output. As the saying goes: if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, you go together.
But First: What is Camaraderie?
Camaraderie is a French loanword that only entered the English language sometime in the mid-1800’s. It literally means ‘Chamber Mate’, but in modern parlance, it means friend, colleague, or even ally. The word invokes a sense of connection, one that is up-close and personal, and something that can’t be forced, but instead, grown naturally.
In the corporate environment, camaraderie refers to the sense of friendship and community within the workforce, a healthy mindset that helps people work together, be loyal to the values of the company, and encourages trust between people who work together towards a single goal.
Why is Camaraderie in the Workplace Important?
It’s not just some hippie-dippie mumbo jumbo: according to studies, employees will often praise a workplace if they feel like:
- They trust the people they work with (and for)
- They are encouraged to take pride in their results
- They experience camaraderie with their workmates and colleagues
These three aspects of trust, pride, and camaraderie are not alien to the good leader: after all, effective leadership is not just about supreme competence in your work, but also encouraging those three aspects amongst the people you lead.
When an employee trusts their co-workers and trusts their manager and is encouraged to take pride and celebrate in the company’s victories, morale remains high, which in turn, encourages consistently high quality and high volume output, and camaraderie is at the center of creating this kind of culture in a company.
How to Encourage Camaraderie in the Workplace
Improving camaraderie in the workplace shouldn’t just be relegated to the once-a-year company retreat or the monthly HR assessments: rather, think of camaraderie building as a constant and active process that happens whenever one person interacts with another person in the office, whether it’s two rank-and-file employees working on a project, or the CEO addressing their managers.
Encouraging camaraderie in the workplace can be done through any number of activities, but at its core, it should contain these following aspects (note, however, that this is not an exhaustive list):
Improve Line Management
There’s an old saying: people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers. It’s a cliché in the HR world, but one that rings true: an overwhelming number of studies show that employees, regardless of rank, will not hesitate to leave a company if they feel like their immediate superior is either mismanaging them or showing a lack of interpersonal skills.
A bad manager is one of the leading causes of low morale at the workplace, which is why company leaders need to lead by example and ensure that the managers they hire are effective, competent, and able to foster positive relationships between the workforce and management.
Discourage Toxic Mindsets
Thousands of companies in the country mistakenly believe that pitting their employees against each other is the best way to motivate them to do better. This cannot be further from the truth: in fact, ruthless, often cutthroat, competition to be the ‘best’ employee in a workplace is one of the most hated aspects of American corporate culture. Why encourage it?
Instead, discourage toxic mindsets like competition or favoritism: rather, encourage positive mindsets such as teamwork and, you guessed it, camaraderie between employees.
Perhaps one of the best ways to encourage camaraderie is to celebrate the little victories of each team in a department. Sure, you could go with grand ceremonies with cakes and certificates and all that jazz, or, you could have the CEO or C-level executives send a warm and heartfelt message to teams that reach their goals. In fact, that’s often better.
Recognize the Individual
When you celebrate teamwork, leaders must also recognize the individuals that made it happen. Not only does this allow team members to appreciate one another, it also creates an inclusive corporate culture that not only recognizes individuals but also respects their contributions, both great and small.
Studies consistently show that companies which encourage socialization and relationship building exercises often achieve their overall goals and missions faster and more efficiently than companies which don’t, and it makes sense: teambuilding exercises and corporate retreats will help employees learn to trust one another as colleagues, but socialization and relationship building exercises help employees connect to each other as human beings.
Encouraging socialization in the workplace doesn’t have to be a big event either: just allow your employees to mingle and talk, maybe even allocate a certain amount of funds every month so that managers can take their team out for dinner and drinks after achieving a goal. It’s all about the little things that help companies build a sense of camaraderie amongst their workforce.
Camaraderie Benefits Everyone
When you encourage camaraderie, you’re not just making a workplace more ‘fun’, you’re also creating a corporate culture that allows you to improve your business processes which ultimately leads to improved output from everyone involved. It’s a mindset that benefits everyone, from the rank-and-file to the bottom-line.
So how do you start building camaraderie? Listen to your employees! They’re the ones that will help decide whether your current corporate culture is positive or negative, and they’re the ones who will be instrumental in deciding what sort of changes you need to implement. Listening to your employees alone is a very big step in fostering camaraderie in the workplace, and it’s something you should have been doing a long time ago.