Relating to colleagues

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

A memory that sticks out very sharply to me was a lesson I heard repeatedly from a teacher I had in high school. He taught Auto-CAD, problem solving, very high math/STEM type courses. Almost weekly he would say:

“Leave your life at the door. In here, your boyfriend doesn’t matter, your family doesn’t matter, only your education does. Learn that now, because when you get a job — all that doesn’t matter to your employer. Your work does.”

That seemed fairly reasonable and as a very task-oriented person, perhaps even preferable. For many places I’ve worked that philosophy, though not as explicitly stated and not as extreme, has been the norm.

I was taught to keep the emails short and task oriented, trim the fat of meetings, make small talk, but be careful lest you look unprofessional.

Seeing Relators at work

During interviewing, I was not perceptive enough to notice that I was about to join a highly relational organization. I remember being so surprised when I came to my desk and there was a card for me, thanking me for being at a meeting. It wasn’t extra work I had done, I didn’t go above and beyond. “I am just doing my job– why would they give this to me? Am I supposed to give gifts around here too? Why is this happening to me?!”

In my Leadership program at work, we’re processing through the StrengthsFinder framework. It turns out that I have 0 Relator type strengths in my Top 10. I’m not terrible at relating, they just don’t happen to be my natural strongest suit.

Influencing is my strongest category — 50% of my Top 10 Strengths fall there. At the session, our StrengthFinder Coach explained that our organization had above average Strengths in Relator categories, and on-par or below average in the rest. Seeing this was a revelatory moment for me — this was why running into the habits of Relators was so paradigm-shifting. Not only was it perplexing to me, but I was running into them constantly! That colleague with the card was leaning into her relational strengths.

While I may not be the most natural at it, I am slowly adopting new habits and rhythms. I’m learning to relax into the 10 minutes where we share about our weekends instead of worrying that we won’t have enough time to finish the conversation, start emails with asking about their dog when normally I would head straight into business, or even better, opt for a video or in-person call.

Most importantly, these new habits are making my life better– not just because this is a highly relational place, but because I will spend 33% of my life with these people. We should have a great time together while getting the work done.

Ashley Crutcher is a Digital Designer at InterVarsity located in Madison, WI. She tweets at @ashleyspixels and enjoys cuddling with her furkiddos, crocheting/knitting, ringing handbells, and thinking too much about everything.

Digital Designer

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