We all have a drive to bond.  The desire to form meaningful, positive relationships with those around us.  Research shows that this drive is one of the strongest motivators that we have as humans (see Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Lawrence and Nohria, 2002).  Think of the impact that this strong human drive could have on business performance if harnessed?  Think of the extra effort that you exert for your friends when they are in need – now apply that extra effort to a business.

The problem is that businesses typically see bonding only as something done in a team building session for an afternoon at the National Sales Meeting.  Or worse, that bonding is idle chit-chat that steals company time and resources.  How many organizations have you seen with policies regarding time spent away from the desk, on the internet, or using social media at work?  Think about those companies that have strict policies regarding office fraternizing or dating.   Or think of the norms that have been established about not mingling with your employees or being their friends after work.  All of this is wrong!

Now I understand that there are reasons for these policies (legal issues, productivity lost, sandbaggers, etc.).  The fact is, these policies inhibit bonding and socializing at work.  The fact is, that bonding can be used to help motivate and inspire your workforce to higher productivity, more responsibility, and greater results.  The issue is that companies need to pro-actively work on this – and that’s not easy.

There are a number of ways to foster increased bonding.  Th first is to remove the roadblocks that inhibit socialization.  Examine your policies and procedures to see if they can be eliminated or changed to help people get to know one another without serious loss of productivity.  Then focus on creating a culture that encourages bonding and team work.  Create opportunities for people to meet and discuss.  Foster conversations between groups and levels within the organization.  Identify social media tools to help people get to know one another on a more personal basis.

Here are a just a couple of ideas:

  • Create a breakfast/lunch topics series – have people give a short presentation on a topic of their interest
  • Start a job sharing/learning forum – one of the best ways to form a relationship at work is to help people understand what everyone does and how they do it
  • Start each meeting with fast facts – a quick go around about something each person has recently done or is planning on doing

Give us some ideas of yours – we’ll not only post them here, but also on Twitter!