People play a pivotal role in building the culture inside of an organization. Especially when it comes to how colleagues relate with each other, because healthy, positive employee relationships have far reaching benefits – increased productivity, better morale, and higher retention. And the easiest way to perpetuate this: create a culture of being nice.

We are constantly given opportunities to celebrate or put down our coworkers in how we talk about them. Research shows that the stories we hear from others that highlight our unique contributions can help us find purpose in our relationships with our colleagues and our work. It not only heightens our self and social worth, but also improves the team’s creative problem-solving capacity. Sounds powerful for something so simple, right?

Here are some opportunities you can look out for, to build your and others’ relational currency:

Speak for colleagues who are trying to be heard. Sometimes, people get interrupted while speaking, or their opinions aren’t considered. Maybe someone takes credit for another person’s work, or is just not ready to be a team player. In such situations, you can always speak for those who are being sidelined or put down, and shine a light on their positive contributions. This could either be through supporting or cheering their ideas, or by affirming their strengths in person when they experience self-doubt. Or even creating space for them to share their expertise – “I’d love to hear what Kenya thinks about this, as this is her forte!”

Use the beginnings and ends of journeys. When coworkers retire or leave for other jobs, it is a sweet chance to send them off well, and create meaning with them. More so if it wasn’t their choice to leave, like with layoffs. Writing them notes or letters of appreciation, expressing gratitude to them in front of the team, and putting together a celebration ritual, goes a long way in healing the leaving employees’ relationship with the organization. People often feel a whirlwind of emotions while exiting – hurt, sadness, disconnect, anger, confusion, and even a deep sense of loss. A positive send-off helps ease these feelings, and offers a solid foundation for the next journey.

Help create powerful first impressions. Whether we like it or not, first impressions matter. And you can play a role in helping your colleagues create good ones. Use introductions as a way to positively narrate about your colleagues. Be attentive, and share details that highlight the ways in which the person is interesting or unique. For example, “Selvin has a flair for languages, and is a connector when it comes to cross-cultural environments.” This is especially important when you’re introducing a new hire to your team. Take the time to make your introduction personal and warm – hobbies, your impression of them, etc.

It is worthwhile to remember that each one of us is consistently seeking to belong, to find community at work, and to know that we matter. Let’s help give our colleagues this experience.

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