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Building Connections with Co-workers

Whether working in person, virtually, or hybrid, conflict with our coworkers is inevitable. Restorative practices are a useful tool to build relationships between co-workers and address conflict more effectively. We define restorative practices as “An approach to achieving equity and justice through building strong community relationships and collectively identifying and addressing harms, needs and obligations in order to heal when harm is done.” In our understanding of restorative practices, strong and healthy relationships are key. The following are some surprisingly simple restorative ways to build relationships among co-workers based in respect and empathy.

Eating together – The act of sharing a meal has been used throughout human history to build and strengthen communities. To celebrate, to mourn, to catch up with old friends, or to meet new ones, food has been a natural bridge between people, and remains so to this day. A great way to build relationships is for co-workers to eat together on occasion! Whether it is chatting over sack lunches in the office, having a virtual lunch, or meeting at a neighborhood restaurant, sharing a meal is a great opportunity to interact outside of typical work environments. Getting to know one another through our food choices can lead to lots of conversations that open a window into a person’s history and build empathy.

Building a staff-themed playlist – Another constant among cultures is music. Whether they are comfort songs that we turn to when we’re feeling emotional or songs that trigger certain memories, sharing music can be a great opportunity for co-workers to get a deeper understanding of who they work with. “What is a song that means something to you?” “What do you listen to when you want to get energized?” “Who is your favorite musical artist?” These are all questions that can be sent out in an email to staff. The next step is to compile a playlist of these songs and share it! Bring the playlist into staff meetings! This is a great opportunity to build empathy and connection between co-workers.

Establishing guidelines and agreements for staff meetings – Staff meetings are an excellent opportunity to hear from all staff. Working together to establish a set of guidelines and agreements that would help everyone to feel respected and valued in the workplace goes a long way to prevent conflicts based on misunderstanding. They help us to show up for each other in a way that is informed by our shared needs. In creating these guidelines, it is important to keep the following questions in mind: How does respect show up for us? What does listening look like for us? How are we making space for different opinions? Do our guidelines reflect the needs of our community? All of these ideas can be molded to fit the culture or your workplace! And they are just the beginning. Fostering strong relationships and transforming conflict is a process that involves innovation, creativity, and consistency!

If you are interested in more ways to bring restorative practices to your workplace, please reach out to us at info@conflictcenter.org.