| Joy of work: How making connections changes everything
AWWA Articles

Joy of work: How making connections changes everything

Author Jennifer Persike, president/founder of Jennifer Persike & Company, is an innovative strategist and visionary leader with more than 30 years of experience with California water and energy utilities, statewide associations, non-profits and corporations.

We humans need connection.

Career Zone article by Jennifer PersikeNever was this more evident than during the pandemic. Connection became currency as we navigated life in isolation away from family, friends, co-workers and classmates.

Bestselling author and researcher Dr. Brené Brown tells us, “Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

We know many of us seek connection in our personal lives, but what about our work life? What role does connection play in our job satisfaction and success? Do we need to place a priority on making connections?

It should come as no surprise to learn that those with connections at work perform better in their job and are happier and healthier. According to the 2017 State of the American Workplace Report by Gallup, Inc., 70% of employees report “connection to colleagues is a crucial element of a happy work life.”

Further, the report makes the case that connecting with your team and helping them to connect with each other is essential to creating a healthy workplace culture where team members thrive and collaborate to make big things happen. Connection fosters a sense of teamwork and shared vision that can result in higher productivity and improved work quality. It also helps build valuable relationships and even friendships that can continue long after the job.

Below are a few simple ways to cultivate connections with your team.

  • Ask questions. Put your reporter hat on and take a genuine interest. Listen more than you talk. 
  • Find common ground. As you interact, you will likely discover shared experiences or interests. 
  • Gain valuable insights. When you connect with your team members, you gain new perspectives and information for problem solving. 
  • Connect with your team. Beyond the one-on-one connection, invest time and energy in building your team by creating opportunities to connect with each other. 

Making meaningful connection is a two-way street. Both parties gain from the relationship. We all benefit by sharing common interests, values and challenges on the job or personally. 

How many times have you attended a conference and come home with a briefcase full of business cards that you ignore? How often have you accepted or made an invitation on social media and let it languish? 

Networking isn’t just a numbers game — building true connections takes intention and investment. Sitting alone in your in-person or virtual office will not get you there. 

Broadening our connections can open a new world of possibilities. Connections will create a community of allies that will give your work added meaning and help you succeed. 

Once you have made an initial contact, try these strategies to build a meaningful connection.

  • Schedule time weekly to make and build connections
  • Be open and authentic in your interaction
  • Get to know a person’s story and share your own
  • Find common ground and interests
  • Check in regularly with your connections
  • Ask for support and be supportive
  • Help others make connections

Over time you will find that meaningful connections can become allies and trusted advisors who you can turn to along your career path.