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What Kind of Sandbox Are You Playing In?

30 Mar

In studying employers who are recognized as “Best-Places-to-Work” we’ve identified effective teamwork (not “us” versus “them”) as one of the six critical drivers of employee engagement. Winning workplaces know how to make sure that everyone in the corporate sandbox knows how to work together effectively and, when necessary, manage the healthy conflict that inevitably comes when talented folks are brought together with a common goal.

I’m reminded of one youngster, Micah, who would be given the award “best kid in the sandbox” if such an accolade existed. He is intent on making sure that each of his playmates has a toy and hugs anyone who falls down and gets hurt. And when it’s time to sit down for the morning milk and cookie snack he turns into helper extraordinaire. Micah is only three, but he could teach a few employers we know about cooperation, team cohesiveness and productivity. Consider the following employees who see the “sandbox” where they work as one where arm-twisting, name-calling, and you-stole-my-shovel behavior is the norm:

“A lot of the individuals in the group are not team players.  They do things to only benefit themselves.  They do not cooperate nor does the manager make them. Workloads are not shared or distributed equally.  The manager does not get involved.”

“The stress level here is high and the pressure put on by the department leaders just make it harder to do your job. We all know our jobs in most cases what is needed to do them and do them right. But you have team leaders making life hell just to hear their own voices.”

On the other hand, many employers have developed cultures where the sandbox seems quite civil:

“We can turn to each other for help, or to ask if another team member has run into a similar problem and how the problem was solved. Our team works well together, and if one of us gets stuck with a project, the other one will either volunteer to help, or if that is not  possible, will take some of the workload, so we don’t get behind.”

“This place rocks.  I took a cut in pay from my big corporate employer to come and work someplace where people believe in what they are working towards and enjoy coming to work.  I feel bad for those that dread going to work each morning.  Smartest move I’ve made in my professional career.”

The industrialist Henry Ford said: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Winning workplaces create engaging cultures characterized by success in getting employees to work together. How’s your workplace culture? Is it a “kick sand in your face” or “build sand castles” kind of culture? In a world that is getting smaller every day, through globalization, new technologies, telecommuting, remote locations, and social networking, it makes a world of difference.