Tending to Workplace Relationships

Two people in work discussion

October 2, 2019

  • Jewish Community
  • Talent Management
  • Leadership Development

When preparing for the High Holidays, a few common motifs come to mind. Synagogue. Apples. Honey. Shofar. But there’s another image that should surface: work.

Work is where we spend the majority of our time each day. It’s where we interact with the most people and make countless decisions—often unconsciously—about how we treat others. From a tone of voice when making a request, to contributing input on a team project, the way we engage with others matters. And yet, there’s often few formal opportunities to reflect on and tend to our workplace relationships. The High Holidays offer a perfect opportunity to change this.

Here’s a few ideas for how to use this time to strengthen our workplace relationships—with ourselves, with our colleagues and with our office community.

1. Nurture your relationship with yourself.
The Jewish New Year is full of themes relating to intention. For example, honey is traditionally eaten not only because it is delicious (though that might feel primarily why), but because it symbolizes our sweet intentions for the year ahead.

Use this time of year to check in with yourself and consider what you are hoping to accomplish in the year ahead. Take a breath, step away from your to-do lists and reflect on your short-term and long-term professional goals.

This can start with something as simple as choosing one word to guide you. Colleen Cruikshank of the Schusterman Foundation’s Leadership and Talent Team explains that choosing one word to embody is an easy way to start pursuing goals without the fear of failure.

Last year, Colleen used “ready” as her word of the year: “I invoked ‘ready’ before I walked into meetings or any time I started to feel inadequate. The word reminded me that wherever I am, whoever I am, I am ready to do the best I can. I do not have to be more than that.”

Find out more about this practice and how you can take the first step toward change with the help of a simple intention.

2. Tend to your relationships with others.  
Another key theme for the High Holidays is repentance. During the Days of Awe, the 10 days between the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), we are asked to apologize to those we have wronged, and accept the apologies of those who offer them in turn.

To apply this tradition at work, seek out those with whom you have worked this past year and ask for (or offer) feedback. While there may be opportunities for feedback as part of formal review cycles, these types of open and reflective conversations are often few and far between. Use this time for more informal discussions about what you can improve and how everyone can work better together.

Start by creating the space for feedback, such as by setting aside time to debrief a project with these five guiding questions. Doing so is an excellent opportunity for talking through issues and misunderstandings that arise between colleagues, as well as a chance to express gratitude for others and affirm successful aspects of working relationships.

Like a muscle, your ability to both accept and offer feedback will become stronger the more you use it. Start flexing this muscle now to keep the lines of feedback and communication open all year-round.

3. Build a robust office community.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that colleagues are people too—and can be wonderful, interesting, inspiring people at that! Fortunately, the High Holidays offer several opportunities to bring people together around special holiday meals.

From apple cake to pomegranates to dates, High Holiday food not only symbolizes elements of Jewish tradition but serves as a tasty tool for gathering acquaintances and encouraging them to get to know each other.

So, try this at work: Invite your colleagues to gather in a common area and chat over lunch. You can share High Holiday flavors by bringing in dishes inspired by our High Holiday recipe collection, which includes 33 recipes from world-renown chefs, Top Chef contestants, and more.

Whichever way you choose to observe this High Holiday season, try taking the themes of intention-setting, repentance and community with you into the workplace. Let’s use this special time in the Jewish calendar to take stock and strengthen our working relationships, rather than set these relationships on autopilot. In doing so, we will no doubt find more joy in our own work and help our colleagues do the same.

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