Harvard Research Shows Talking About Your Co-Workers in This Way Is Extremely Important to Teamwork

Talking about your co-workers--in an uplifting way--is more powerful than you might think. Here's how to enable this productive habit.

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We can all get caught up in bashing a co-worker at times, perhaps not even realizing we’re doing it. It’s a past time for many whose time has passed–no longer on the upswing, it’s easier for some to point out others inadequacies and drag them down rather than deal with their own faults.

You don’t have to be a scientist to imagine the detrimental impact engaging in such behavior can have.

But you might not have considered the surprising power of the opposite–finding opportunities to talk up your co-workers in an uplifting and supportive way.

Research from Harvard University indicates that uplifting co-workers by talking about them positively “increases general feelings of being socially valued by others, leading to better information exchange and creative performance.”

The research points out that team effectiveness can often be crippled because people want to fit in (especially newcomers), and so will withhold information and opinions and will take less creative risks. Positive talk about that co-worker can completely reverse that dynamic.

Seems like a low hanging fruit opportunity for dramatically enhanced team effectiveness, no?

To help you pick this fruit, here are five times and tactics for lifting your co-workers up.

1. Back ’em up when they’re knocked down.

You know these moments when you’re in them. Your co-worker is getting repeatedly cut off when trying to make a point, getting unfairly castigated by a manager or getting savaged when they’re not in the room. Stand out by standing up for them. Don’t pile on the negativity–power it down.

2. Spread positive gossip.

This is about making your own moments versus standing up in the right ones. Get caught talking about your co-workers, in an upbeat way. It’s what positive-ion human beings do. By the way, when the wisps of goodwill organically make their way back to the protagonist, it has a bonding effect; we’re instinctively drawn to our supporters.

3. Mold impressions at moments of entry and exit.

We all know how important first impressions are. Help a new co-worker arrive into their new role by talking them up before they arrive, setting them up well as you’re introducing them, and taking early opportunities to reinforce your own first positive impression of them to others.

Similarly, when a co-worker is leaving a team, broadly verbalize what they’ve meant to the team. Enable them to leave with more positive memories of their time on your team and let their new co-workers (if applicable) know what a gem they’re getting.

4. Help forge their unique team role.

Teams really click when everyone knows what everyone’s role is on the team and what unique, valuable skills each person brings to the table. Make sure everyone knows what your co-worker is bringing and call on that co-worker to apply their unique skills at opportune times.

5. Find out what they’re evaluated on and help it along.

If the co-worker works in a different function and/or for a different boss, find out what they get evaluated on (not every function values the same things). Then, find opportunities to share positive feedback with that boss when the co-worker exemplifies what matters.

The bottom line is that we work for more than just helping the bottom line. Work is meant to be a means to an end–a means to make work more meaningful for others. If you say so, you can start with what you say.

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