We all like having friends at work. It makes it more fun. But beyond fun, these close relationships actually increase employee engagement and productivity. In fact, 2013 research from Gallup found that close friendships at work boost employee satisfaction by a whopping 50 percent.

And in an updated 2017 report, Gallup reiterated the importance of having close relationships, saying, "When employees possess a deep sense of affiliation with their team members, they are driven to take positive actions that benefit the business -- actions they may not otherwise even consider."

In short, having close work relationships is good for business. But sometimes -- especially if you work in a demanding startup environment -- all this togetherness can drive you crazy.

Earlier this year, that's what happened to my team. To ease tension, we tried a personality-based communication workshop. Drawing from our own experience, here's what any small team can learn.

1. You'll learn about yourselves.

After taking a detailed online assessment, we each received a 20-page report about ourselves that included everything from our working style to decision making methods, communication techniques, and suggestions for development.

Each of us read some great, positive things about our personalities at work, though they all included some less-than-flattering results. But across the board, they were very accurate. It was eye opening for all of us to see ourselves from a new angle.

Arming your team with this information will help them throughout their career -- whether they stay with your company or move on to new opportunities. This insight is a great career development tool for any startup.

2. You'll learn about your strengths and weaknesses as a team.

In addition to our individual reports, we also received a chart mapping the whole team in terms of personality and communication style. It turned out we were pretty well balanced, with a smattering of personalities.

We're strong in observing detail, coordinating processes, and helping and inspiring each other. However, we're weaker in directing initiatives and reforming processes on paper.

In our discussion, we realized that personality differences between our team members and leaders were pushing team members to adapt their natural communication style. We collectively decided this wasn't a good or bad thing -- just something to keep in mind as we started new projects and initiatives.

Knowing your team's strengths and weaknesses will help you communicate more effectively and work together more smoothly. 

3. It'll open up a dialogue to talk about frustrations.

Because we do have a wide range of personalities on our team, the workshop helped us see why there were points of frustration between us. For example, our product leader loves to drive action and make things happen -- even if all the pieces are not yet in place. But one of our marketers prefers to have lots of detail and take the time to create high-quality deliverables.

As we talked about our fundamentally different working styles, we saw direct conflict for what it was: a natural and inevitable part of teamwork. We also recognized the importance of these different styles. Without our driven product leader, we would get far less accomplished. But without our detailed marketer, the quality and consistency of our work would drop.

For any small team, it's all about balance.

4. You'll develop a plan of action to keep your balance.

As we talked about balancing things like team morale, consistent processes, and productivity milestones, we realized we needed a way to keep track of it all. So for the first time, we created a formal plan.

After listing several areas for improvement, we prioritized them and assigned a team member to each of our top ones. This workshop activity forced us to plan, prioritize, and assign ownership to elements of creating a cohesive team.

If your team is experiencing tension, trying one of these workshops will help you think about a solution, and you'll even put together an action plan.

5. It'll be a great bonding experience.

Aside from building our team communication plan, this workshop forced us to take a step back from the day-to-day stress of startup life. It helped us connect and understand one another in a refreshing, fun way.

This activity is a great reminder that at the end of the day, you're all working toward the same thing: doing good work, growing your business, and building your careers. 

Overall, these workshops will (obviously) not magically solve all your team's problems. But there is real value to be gained by taking a step back and thinking about communication from a different perspective.

Published on: Nov 30, 2017